- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Still searching for enough Republican support to pass his fiscal cliff Plan B, House Speaker John A. Boehner added another bill to the agenda Thursday that would cancel the looming automatic spending cuts and replace them with other cuts to President Obama’s health-care law.

The sequester bill will now join Mr. Boehner’s plan to extend most income tax rates but allow those for millionaires to rise, and both of those are slated for a floor vote Thursday.

Republicans added the new bill in violation of their vow to give members three days to review legislation before it comes to the floor for a vote, and also blocked any Democratic amendments.

Democrats boycotted part of the Rules Committee hearing late Wednesday where the decision was made to add the new bill, saying they were disappointed by the entire process.

But Rep. David Dreier, California Republican and panel chairman, said his party was acting within its rights, and wasn’t as bad as what Democrats did when they were in charge.

“The notion that this is somehow something new is preposterous,” he said, adding that the sequester bill is similar to one the House already passed earlier this year, so they should not consider it new.

That earlier House bill passed 218-199 with no Democrats supporting it, and with 16 Republicans also in opposition.

Mr. Boehner has a lot riding on Thursday’s votes. If he can pass his fiscal-cliff plans, it will give him more leverage as he negotiates with Mr. Obama. If his bill fails, it will undercut him and leave Mr. Obama in a stronger position.

But Democrats said they fear Republicans will pass the bill and then leave town ahead of Christmas, forcing Senate Democrats into a take-it-or-leave-it proposition.

“What I suspect is you’re going to stick the country with this dog and you’re going to take off,” said Rep. Louise M. Slaughter of New York, the ranking Democrat on the Rules Committee, before she and her party colleagues boycotted the later session.

Conservative Republicans have balked at Mr. Obama’s tax plan, arguing that it amounts to a vote to raise taxes, even if it is on millionaires. The Republican leadership spent Wednesday trying to recalibrate their plans to win support, and the sequester bill was their answer.

It would cancel the $110 billion in automatic spending cuts, evenly divided between defense and domestic spending, that are looming on Jan. 2 as a result of last year’s debt deal.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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