U.S. Reps. Charlie Dent and Lou Barletta both said they are supporting the Republicans' so-called "Plan B" because it makes most tax rates permanent, as well as extends permanently the Alternative Minimum Tax.
"Overall, my goal is to make sure that we protect as many Americans as possible from rates going up. I think this plan accomplishes that objective," Dent said."
"Tonight, I’m voting for a bill to permanently lower taxes for 99.81 percent of the American people," Barletta echoed. "The only ones whose taxes will go up are millionaires and billionaires."
But outgoing U.S. Rep. Tim Holden, a conservative Democrat who over his 20-year career voted with Republicans from time to time, called the GOP effort "laughable."
Holden said he could support raising taxes on people making more than $500,000, but not higher than that. What will likely be his final vote on Capitol Hill, Holden said the entire fiscal cliff crisis is "embarrassing."
"Everybody thinks we're crazy and we're a do nothing Congress. It's embarrassing. This is five days before Christmas and here we are making fools of ourselves. It's absolutely ridiculous," Holden said. "There's no bipartisan cooperation around here anymore. This is not the Congress I was elected to in 1992. Sometimes I think there are people who want this to go off the cliff."
Boehner's bill has no chance of becoming law. The Senate won't take it up. President Obama would veto it if it ever got that far. The point of the bill is solely to give Boehner some negotiating leverage in the stalled talks with the White House.
"It's hard for the Speaker to negotiate if he doesn't have 218 votes for whatever it is he is trying to sell," Dent said.
Extending the Bush tax-cuts are the major sticking point of the fiscal cliff, which is Washington-speak for the tax hikes and dramatic spending cuts set to go into effect on Jan. 1 if Congress does nothing. Such a scenario would send the country back into a recession.
The Democrats and White House want to extend the lower rates only for people making under $250,000. Republicans want to extend them for everyone. Public opinion has been on the side of the Democrats.
The vote is an attempt for Republicans to save face if Washington doesn't reach a deal and taxes go up on everyone. With this vote the Republicans can say they weren't choosing millionaires over every day Americans.
"This is a Republican effort to salvage what they can in terms of public standing, to have some high ground to use in negotiations," Chris Borick, Muhlenberg College political scientist, said. "They want to be able to say they gave tax breaks to 99 percent, it's a lot of window dressing and posturing"
Dent said he feels confident that when Congress returns from an abbreviated Christmas break on Dec. 27, they will resolve the tax rates rub. He's less assured that Congress will find a way to deal with the sequestration, which are nearly $1 trillion in automatic spending cuts to all federal agency programs, including defense, that were included in a budget deal last year.
The White House wants $800 billion in spending cuts. The Republicans want $1.2 trillion in cuts, but they do not want it to come from the defense budget and they want cuts to mandatory programs like Medicare.
"At the end of the day I do not want to go over the fiscal cliff, it'd be bad for the economy, bad for jobs and be very, very unhelpful," Dent said. "That said, it looks like we'll come to a resolution on the tax side of it but I'm not optimistic about the sequester. That's where we are."