The conflict over the stalled "fiscal cliff" talks grew more heated Wednesday and threatened to become even more so Thursday when the action is expected to shift for the first time to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.
In the absence of a bipartisan agreement, the Republican leadership of the House plans to move a bill of its own to the floor Thursday to avert the steep tax hikes and budget cuts set for January.
But instead of serving as a show of unity for Republicans in their wrangling with Democratic President Barack Obama, the so-called Republican "Plan B," which was still evolving late Wednesday, was exposing internal fractures because it includes a tax hike on those earning $1 million or more, dividing anti-tax conservatives.
The planned action by Republicans angered President Barack Obama Wednesday, who accused opponents of holding a personal grudge against him.
As a year-end deadline nears, Obama and House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner are locked in intense bargaining over a possible deal to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff of harsh tax hikes and spending cuts that could badly damage an already weak economy.
Obama said he was puzzled over what was holding up the talks and told Boehner's Republicans to stop worrying about scoring "a point against the president" or forcing him into concessions "just for the heck of it." "It is very hard for them to say yes to me," he told a news conference in the White House. "At some point, you know, they've got to take me out of it."
The rise in tensions threatens to unravel significant progress made over the last week. Boehner and Obama have each offered substantial concessions that have made a deal look within reach. Obama has agreed to cuts in benefits for seniors, while Boehner has conceded to Obama's demand that taxes rise for the richest Americans.
However, the climate of goodwill has evaporated since Republicans announced plans on Tuesday to put an alternative tax plan to a vote in the House this week that would largely disregard the progress made so far in negotiations.
On Wednesday, Obama threatened to veto the Republican measure, known as "Plan B," if Congress approved it. Boehner's office slammed Obama for opposing their plan. "The White House's opposition to a backup plan ... is growing more bizarre and irrational by the day,"