House Republicans plan to forge ahead on Thursday with "Plan B," their "fiscal cliff" fallback plan, but they will not be skipping town after voting on the measures because they still hope for a broader deal with the White House.
"We do not intend to send members home," Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor told reporters. "We want to stay here; we want to avoid the fiscal cliff from happening."
The fiscal cliff—across-the-board income tax hikes and deep government spending cuts—could plunge the fragile economy into a new recession. Negotiations between President Barack Obama and Republican House Speaker John Boehner appear to be at a standstill with less than two weeks to go before those measures automatically come into force.
Cantor predicted passage of Plan B, which was designed, in part, to shift the blame to Obama and Senate Democrats should an agreement not be reached by Jan. 1. One bill would cut spending, and one would raise income taxes only on Americans making more than $1 million annually.
"Yes, we're going to have the votes," Cantor told reporters—which seems to suggest that GOP leaders did not currently have enough support.
Obama has already said he would veto the bill should it make it to his desk.
An as-yet uncertain number of rank-and-file Republicans opposed to any tax increases was expected to oppose Plan B, and Democrats were expected to stick together and vote "no." That could make passage in the Republican-held House of Representatives a suspenseful affair—though Plan B is also expected to be dead on arrival in the Democrat-led Senate. U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Thursday said the Senate won't take up Plan B at all. Reid suggested that the Senate isn't coming back to work until Dec. 27.
Public opinion polls show a majority of Americans side with Obama in the standoff. The president's latest offer would raise taxes on income above $400,000 annually and includes hundreds of billions in spending cuts. House Republicans have openly touted their Plan B as a weapon to shift the blame to the president if the talks collapse.
"The president has a decision to make: He can support these measures or be responsible for reckless spending and the largest tax hike in American history," Cantor said Thursday.