It’s not known how many House Republicans would vote to avert the “fiscal cliff” by supporting a tax-and-spending plan closer to Obama’s liking. In his re-election campaign, the president called for letting the Bush-era tax cuts expire on incomes above $250,000 for couples and $200,000 for individuals. In later negotiations with Boehner, Obama said he could accept a $400,000 threshold if Republicans agreed to other tax and spending provisions.
An Obama-backed deal presumably would draw the overwhelming support of House and Senate Democrats. But even if every House Democrat backed it, it would need another 25 votes in that chamber. Some Democrats say Boehner should let a few dozen willing Republicans provide those votes by putting an Obama-blessed bill on the floor.
“If Speaker Boehner is willing to bring to the floor of the House a bill, and just let this House work its will, Democrats and Republicans voting as their conscience determines, then I believe we can get something done,” Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., told Bloomberg TV.
He noted that Pelosi, as House speaker in 2006, violated the “majority of the majority” rule by letting Republicans provide most of the votes for an Iraq war funding measure she disliked.
Hastert, the Republican speaker from 1999 to 2007, overrode the rule at least twice. In one case, he let Democratic votes carry the load on a stem cell research bill everyone knew President George W. Bush would veto. Hastert also yielded to pressure to let the McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill pass even though most House Republicans opposed it.
Aides to Boehner say he believes in, and abides by, the “majority of the majority” rule without declaring it an iron-clad requirement. They did not respond to messages asking if Boehner might consider ignoring the rule to avert the “fiscal cliff.”
John Feehery, who was a top aide to Hastert, said he doubted that would happen.
Boehner “could put something on the floor and vote against it,” Feehery said. But it’s more likely, he said, that Boehner and other Republicans will let the Dec. 31 deadline pass. That would send the government over the cliff and let virtually all tax rates rise, at least for a while.
Then early next year, Feehery said, lawmakers could “vote to cut taxes rather than vote to raise taxes.”
Either way, the richest Americans will see their tax cuts expire. Boehner’s hold on his speakership, however, might be stronger if he makes no break in the “majority of the majority” rule.