Speaker John Boehner's decision to pursue a fallback strategy has made it even more difficult to reach a comprehensive deficit reduction deal and raised the chances of going off the fiscal cliff, senior administration officials said.
Substantive talks have grinded to a halt since Boehner's announcement Tuesday to pursue a Plan B bill that would raise taxes on income above $1 million, but does nothing to deal with across-the-board spending cuts known as the sequester, entitlement spending, and a host of expiring provisions.
President Barack Obama is willing to continue talks with Boehner, the officials said, but the two have not spoken since Monday night, when the speaker informed him of the alternate strategy.
Obama is scheduled to travel to Hawaii on Friday for a family vacation but will remain in Washington until Congress's schedule comes into focus, the officials said.
The administration officially responded to the Plan B strategy Wednesday by issuing a veto threat.
"The deficit reduction is minimal, and perversely, given its authors, solely through tax increases with no spending cuts," White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer said in a statement. "This approach does not meet the test of balance, and the president would veto the legislation in the unlikely event of its passage."
Brendan Buck, Boehner's press secretary, called the threat "bizarre and irrational."
"The White House's opposition to a back-up plan to ensure taxes don't rise on American families is growing more bizarre and irrational by the day," Buck said in an emailed statement. "Republicans have always said a broader, 'balanced' plan is the ideal solution, and we have put one forward. In the absence of a 'balanced' solution from the President, however, we must act to stop taxes from rising across the board in 12 days. If Democrats disapprove of this bill, then there is a simple solution: amend it in the Senate and send it back to the House."
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