Boehner on averting fiscal cliff: 'God only knows'

House Speaker John Boehner
Published: .
Updated: .

House Speaker John Boehner says he's still open to talks with President Barack Obama on avoiding the double economic hit of automatic tax hikes and spending cuts but he needs Obama to compromise more.

Boehner spoke to reporters Friday morning, hours after his rank-and-file Republicans handed him a bitter defeat. Boehner was forced to pull his bill to raise taxes on millionaires because he didn't have the votes for passage.

He said he didn't know how the so-called "fiscal cliff" would be avoided. Said Boehner: "How we get there, God only knows."

Boehner expressed no concern about his standing as speaker.

Now Congress is heading home for Christmas without a deal.

"Disappointed? It's unbelievable, this is horrible. I'm angry, I'm sad for my friend the Speaker, and I'm sorry for the country. We deserve better," said Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-OH).

Boehner was trying to push his "Plan B" solution after direct talks with President Obama failed. Republicans made the concession to allow taxes to go up for the wealthiest, but only for those earning $1 million or more a year. Democrats wanted a lower threshold and Senate leaders refused to consider Plan B.

That meant Republicans were being asked to take a politically painful vote for higher taxes with no Democrats going along, and no evidence that Democrats would agree to deeper spending cuts that Republicans say are necessary to reduce the deficit.

"The problem has been with the president, it's been with the White House, it's been with Harry Reid and the Senate. It hasn't been over here," said Rep. John Fleming (R-LA).

Republicans expect that for now, Boehner will take much of the heat.

"He has worked his heart out to try to get the best deal he can and to have this happen is very sad for the country," said Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA).

The White House reacted by saying, "The president will work with Congress to get this done."