Mr. Boehner, irritated with the White House, was finding it hard to keep his troops in line as details of his negotiations with Mr. Obama leaked out. In the speaker’s office just off the Capitol’s majestic rotunda that afternoon, he told his top lieutenants that he was already thinking about a pared-down backup plan. "In the absence of an agreement, ‘Plan B’ is the plan," he told his deputies, according to a script he read them that afternoon.
One by one, they came out in favor of Plan B and against the broader deal.
House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R., Mich.) said the new tax revenue the broader plan called for was too high. Then Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R., Wis.), whom Mr. Boehner had spent weeks wooing, said he couldn’t sign on because it didn’t make structural changes in entitlements.
The speaker went ahead with Plan B, which collapsed Thursday night before he could even bring it to a vote, leaving talks at a perilous standstill just days before the year-end fiscal-cliff deadline. Even if an agreement can be reached by then, both sides expect it to be a small package doing little to tackle the long-term budget woes and deferring the battle until next year.