When Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner met with McConnell to present Obama’s proposal, McConnell and his staff deemed the offer so ridiculous that he and others in the room laughed out loud, according to a person familiar with the meeting.
“Here we are at the 11th hour, and the president still isn’t serious about dealing with this problem,” Boehner later said.
Boehner and Obama spent the beginning of December publicly stating that they had made little progress. Boehner complained that Obama’s negotiating style was to tell people to “roll over, do what I say.”
The speaker said Republicans had given ground by agreeing to more tax revenue, though the president hadn’t specified spending cuts he would accept.
After the Dec. 13 meeting when Obama said Boehner would be blamed for economic damage caused by a lack of a deal, the speaker was convinced that they were nowhere near an agreement. The next day, after a shooting rampage at a Connecticut elementary school, Boehner called Obama from Ohio and opened the door to an income-tax rate increase.
Still, Obama said that the $1 trillion in revenue Boehner offered was too low and that his demand for $1.2 trillion in spending cuts was too high.
On Dec. 17, the White House countered with an offer that would let tax cuts expire for income above $400,000 a year. That same night, Boehner told Obama that the House would vote on his own proposal, which became known as Plan B.
Three days later Boehner scrapped plans for the vote. At a closed-door meeting of House Republican caucus, Boehner recited the Serenity Prayer, told Republicans that he didn’t have the votes and sent them home for Christmas, according to LaTourette.
After Boehner spoke, according to a person in the room Pennsylvania Representative Mike Kelly took the microphone and asked his colleagues, “What are you guys doing? How the hell can you do this to the speaker?” Kelly’s office didn’t respond to requests for confirmation.
Boehner told reporters the next day that many Republicans viewed Plan B as a tax increase. “We had a number of our members who just really didn’t want to be perceived as having raised taxes,” he said. “That was the real issue.”
The failure of Plan B “torpedoed” any negotiations with Obama, LaTourette said. It demonstrated that Boehner didn’t have enough support from members for his negotiating position. The speaker said a solution would have to come from the Senate.
Before leaving Washington Dec. 21 for his Christmas vacation in Hawaii, Obama urged lawmakers to craft an interim bill that would keep taxes from rising for most Americans and continue expanded unemployment benefits. The president met with Reid at the White House and suggested that Reid start drafting a fallback plan, according to a Democrat familiar with the meeting.
White House Meeting
Obama returned to Washington on Dec. 27. On Dec. 28, he again summoned Boehner, Reid, McConnell and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to the White House. He announced afterward that Reid and McConnell had agreed to work together on a plan.
Reid and McConnell’s staffs swapped at least three rounds of offers. Still, on Dec. 30 McConnell took to the Senate floor to say his negotiations with Reid had stalled and he would ask Biden to “help jump start” the talks.
“The sticking point appears to be a willingness or interest or frankly, the courage to close the deal,” McConnell said. “I’m willing to get this done, but I need a dance partner.”
Biden and McConnell began negotiating. The following morning, Reid told Obama during a phone call that the White House was ceding too much to Republicans, said a Democrat familiar with the conversation. The Democrat said Reid was unhappy that Biden agreed to delay federal spending cuts for a few months, rather than at least a year.
At about 3 p.m. on Dec. 31, McConnell said on the Senate floor that he and Biden were “very, very close” to a deal.
Six hours later, Biden went to the Capitol to accept an invitation from Reid, who was still reluctant to endorse the deal, to sell the measure to Senate Democrats. At about 2 a.m. on New Year’s Day, the Senate passed the measure, 89-8.