Updated 1:53 p.m. - Republicans, confident that they would have the votes to be successful, said they would push ahead with their alternative plan to resolve the "fiscal cliff," even as Senate Democrats said the GOP proposal would never even be allowed a vote in their chamber.
GOP leaders said they intended to follow through with their vote to pass a pair of bills which would preserve tax rates on income less than $1 million and approve new spending cuts in place of the automatic cuts -- many to defense -- set to take effect on Jan. 1.
House Speaker John Boehner is now spending a third day working to pass his Plan B bill, which has zero chance of becoming a law and zero chance of becoming party of any final budget deal. The Daily Rundown's Chuck Todd reports.
"Absent a balanced option from the president, this is our nation's best option," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., told reporters on Capitol Hill. "And Senate Democrats should take up both of these measures immediately."
President Barack Obama has promised to veto the legislation; it is virtually dead-on-arrival in the Senate, where Democrats oppose the proposal.
"Until Republicans take up our bill in the House -- the one that passed here -- there's nothing to discuss," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. "We're not taking up any of the things they're working on over there now."
Retiring Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison tells The Daily Rundown's Chuck Todd that she remains hopeful that leaders are working behind closed doors to strike a deal in the fiscal cliff negotiations and believes there is a way forward.
The partisan standoff devolved into protracted gamesmanship that appeared to move Democrats and Republicans no closer to a deal to resolve the fiscal cliff just 12 days before its onset. Much of Thursday's action in Washington, represented in a series of dueling press conferences throughout the day, seemed to have more to do with positioning each party for the possibility of failure than reaching the kind of agreement that has eluded lawmakers for so long.
"After today, Senate Democrats and the White House are going to have to act on this measure," Boehner said at an afternoon press conference. "If Senate Democrats and the White House refuse to act, they'll be responsible for the largest tax hike in American history."
With less than 12 days until the tax hikes and spending cuts which compose the "fiscal cliff" will snap into place, Republicans remain locked in a stalemate with Obama over the extent of the expiring tax rates they should extend, as well as how deep of cuts should be made -- and to which programs.
Republicans' Plan B proposal, on which the House will vote this evening, came after the White House offered a deal in which no taxes would go up on income under $400,000, along with changes as to how Social Security benefits would be allowed to grow in coming years. But the administration views the plan as a non-starter, meaning that today's vote serves little more purpose than to posture the GOP for the final stages of negotiations (or, for the political fallout that would result from going over the fiscal cliff.)
J. Scott Applewhite / AP
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., second from right, walks to a Republican strategy session with Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2012.
"I've done my part," Boehner said about the state of negotiations. "They've done nothing."
A handful of conservative Republicans, who oppose tax increases in virtually every instance, have said they would vote against their leadership on Plan B, making House Speaker John Boehner's, R-Ohio, task in approving the bill more difficult. Boehner can suffer only 24 defections from fellow Republicans if no Democrats break ranks and support the plan.
Cantor, on Thursday, confidently predicted the bill would have adequate support when it reaches a final vote, tentatively scheduled for this evening.
The Daily Rundown's Chuck Todd speaks with House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer about the latest on the fiscal cliff negotiations.
"We're going to have the votes to pass both the permanent tax relief bill as well as the spending reduction bill," he said.
At the same time, Democrats ridiculed Republicans' strategy as a waste of time given Obama and Senate Democratic leaders' stated opposition to even allowing for consideration of the plan.
But the speaker said he wasn't convinced his backup proposal really was dead in the Senate. "I'm not convinced at all that when the bill passes the House today, it will die in the Senate," he said.
The impending Christmas holiday -- along with some congressional leaders' travel to Hawaii this weekend for the funeral of the late Sen. Daniel Inouye, D -- means there are few working days left for Republicans to resolve their standoff with Democrats and Obama.
Reid said that senators would be asked to return to Washington next Thursday, four days before the fiscal cliff.
Cantor said that the plan -- as of now -- was for lawmakers to stay in Washington following tonight's Plan B vote.
"We do not intend to send members home after this vote," he said. "We want to stay here, we want to avoid the fiscal cliff from happening."
Boehner also said the House would stay in Washington past tonight's vote, though he would not say for how long.