As Georgia Republican Reps. Phil Gingrey, Jack Kingston and Paul Broun sat together on the House floor during a vote this evening, House Speaker John Boehner plopped down in the row behind them and gave them an earful. Boehner, viewed by this reporter through a door a few yards away, appeared pretty intense.
Gingrey said the Speaker was making “strong arguments” in favor of his “Plan B” on the fiscal cliff negotiations — a floor vote tentatively scheduled for Thursday to maintain the marginal income tax rates for earnings $1 million and less, as well as the estate tax rates.
“The Speaker feels very, very confident if we don’t do this it’s going to end up at the 250 mark [raising taxes on income above $250,000]. … He said that’s what his great fear is,” Gingrey said.
Still, the Republican from Marietta is unsure about voting effectively to allow some taxes to rise. “My powder’s dry,” Gingrey said.
Several Republican members of the delegation are undecided, waiting out what package gets to the floor. In interviews this afternoon, Reps. Tom Graves of Ranger, Austin Scott of Tifton and Rob Woodall from Lawrenceville were in wait-and-see mode.
Broun, in an interview prior to the Boehner encounter, was firmer in his opposition and floated a “Plan C.” He said the idea had been bouncing among several conservative members to try to force a vote on extending all the tax rates, combined with spending cuts that had previously passed the House to replace the across-the-board “sequestration” cuts.
“Hopefully, we’ll have that opportunity,” said Broun, of Athens.
House leaders are still considering squashing the $1 million vote, if they can’t whip up sufficient support, or adding in some spending cuts to sweeten it for their skeptical members. It does not correlate with the discussed “grand bargain” between Boehner and President Barack Obama, but is a test for Boehner on whether he can keep his caucus together and establish a House Republican line in these negotiations. It also would throw pressure over to the Senate to act on a fallback plan if talks fail. The Senate passed an extension of marginal rates on income $250,000 and under in the fall.
A big question is whether extending some, but not all, of the tax rates qualifies as voting for a tax increase. The conservative advocacy crowd is split on this: Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform says it’s not a tax hike; Heritage Action for America and the Club For Growth say it is.
Coweta County Republican Rep. Lynn Westmoreland said he’s a “no” on Plan B, mostly because it does not include spending cuts. He was not so quick to label it a tax hike — perhaps out of deference to some of his wavering delegation mates.
“I’m not going to say it’s a tax increase,” Westmoreland said. “It’s a tax deferment. We’re deferring our taxes to our kids and our grandkids.”
- By Daniel Malloy, Political Insider