Is a deal still possible? Can John Boehner survive as speaker? Why did he try this Plan B idea, anyway? A guide to what to expect in the weeks ahead.
Disaster on Capitol Hill! Fiscal cliff chaos! Trying to sort through the disorder that erupted in Congress Thursday night? Here's a handy FAQ.
What just happened? House Speaker John Boehner couldn't get Republicans to vote for a tax increase. His "Plan B" consisted of a pair of bills: one containing spending cuts, the other allowing taxes to rise only on incomes over $1 million. The spending-cut bill squeaked through early Thursday evening with zero Democratic votes. That was a sign that the tax-hike bill, which would be harder for Republicans to support, was in danger. Boehner gathered his members in the Capitol, recited the alcoholic's serenity prayer, and announced that he was pulling the bill because it didn't have the votes. The House has gone home for Christmas, and possibly for the year.
What did Boehner think he was doing, anyway? "Plan B" was a risky gambit intended to create leverage for the GOP by putting the ball back in the court of President Obama and Senate Democrats. The idea was that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid would be forced to take up the $1 million tax hike bill and alter it to his liking, which would mean getting Democrats to agree to an alternate tax-hike threshold. Would it be $250,000, which Reid barely got through the Senate over the summer with 51 votes, one of whom has since died? Would it be $400,000, which Obama had tentatively agreed to in negotiations with Boehner? Would it be $1 million, which Senate Democrats previously also approved in a symbolic vote, and which House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called for back in May? The debate and division would be on the Democratic side, and Republicans' recalcitrance and disarray would be, at least temporarily, out of the spotlight.