Chaffetz: Boehner right to try Plan B
Politics • Utah's two GOP House members may have backed Boehner; Matheson says he would have voted "no."
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Washington • Rep. Jason Chaffetz on Friday lauded House Speaker John Boehner for offering up a Republican plan to avert the so-called fiscal cliff even if Boehner eventually had to jettison the idea in the face of a caucus revolt.

"It wasn't good," Chaffetz said of the last-minute call to toss out the vote. "It's not a feather in [Boehner's] cap but I do appreciate him trying."

Chaffetz said he would have voted for the Boehner proposal — dubbed Plan B — and his Utah Republican colleague, Rob Bishop, says he was leaning toward supporting it when the speaker pulled it from the agenda because, he said, "it did not have sufficient support from our members to pass."

The House adjourned Thursday night, although members could return to work after Christmas.

Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, said he opposed the Boehner plan because it didn't deal with Medicaid reimbursement rates, the alternative minimum tax or several other impacts Americans will feel in the new year.

"It didn't even come close to addressing the fiscal cliff issues that are out there," Matheson said in an interview. "That's what's disappointing. I think both sides are trying out bills that don't address the things that are happening Jan. 1."

Matheson says he wasn't approached by Republicans to support the measure, but that he still holds out hope that Congress and President Barack Obama can compromise before the end of the year with something that halts the tax hikes and sets out a framework for spending cuts.

"I share the frustration that most people do about looking for a elected officials in both parties to work in a constructive way," Matheson said.

On the Republican side, Chaffetz said Boehner did the right thing to pull back the bill and now says, like the speaker, that it's up to Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to work out a balanced approach that can swing the votes in the House.

"My frustration is with the Democrats, not with our own Republican conference," Chaffetz said. "What I do blame is the president who claims to want a balanced approach but never offers anything balanced."

The Utah Republican added that his "conscience is clean" as the nation moves toward Jan. 1 when significant tax hikes will hit most Americans and a series of federal spending cuts automatically occur without congressional action.

Chaffetz, Bishop and Matheson supported a bill in August that would extend tax cuts for all Americans; the Senate never voted on the measure.

Bishop's spokeswoman Melissa Subbotin says her boss is opposed to raising taxes on any taxpayer and predicts the House will be back before the first of the year to help forestall the hikes.

Bishop "liked that this bill made permanent that rates would not go up for more than 90 percent of Americans," Subbotin said, "so because of that, he leaned yes."

But, Subbotin added, the congressman didn't think Obama was serious about reaching an agreement — the president said he opposed and would veto Plan B — so that's why the Republicans couldn't gather the needed votes to pass it.

tburr@sltrib.com