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John Boehner's Fiscal Cliff 'Plan B' Is a Tax Hike On Middle Class, Chuck Schumer Says

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JOHN BOEHNER FISCAL CLIFF
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y) listens to Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) during a news conference about House Speaker John Boehner's proposal regarding the fiscal cliff at Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana) | AP

WASHINGTON -- House Speaker John Boehner's "Plan B" to preserve current tax rates on all but million-dollar earners is actually a tax hike on the middle class, Democratic senators charged Wednesday.

Boehner, an Ohio Republican, floated his fallback plan as something that might be passed in case he and the White House can't come to an agreement on the larger "fiscal cliff" -- the combination of tax hikes and spending cuts that kick in after Jan. 1.

Boehner's plan proposes keeping the current tax rates for everyone but those at the very top of the income ladder.

But Democrats argued in a Capitol Hill news conference that the proposal doesn't actually accomplish that goal, saying it leaves out a number of tax cuts for people futher down the earnings scale, while letting some lesser-known tax breaks for millionaires continue.

"The 'Plan B' is a very flawed proposal," Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said. "It gives huge tax breaks to the wealthy, an average of $50,000 per millionaire."

Among the missing tax cuts detailed by Schumer and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) were a break for college tuition as well as portions of the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit.

"It reduces the Earned Income Tax Credit that particularly harms families with three or four children, as well as families making $30,000, $40,000, $50,000 a year," Harkin said. "It completely shelters taxpayers making 10 times that amount."

"Only House Republicans could write a proposal with a million-dollar income threshold and still find a way to raise taxes on the middle class," Schumer said.

Schumer said the Senate would not pass the the Plan B measure if it passes the House, and President Barack Obama threatened to veto it on Tuesday.

Republicans have accused Schumer of hypocrisy because he sponsored a bill two years ago that would also have set a million-dollar threshold.

"The bill they're sending us is not the same bill we sent them," Schumer said. "But even if it were the same, Republicans had their chance two years ago. We put it on the floor, if they would have voted for it, we would have had it. But you can't turn the clock back two years. The whole political landscape has changed. The president ran on $250,000, he won on $250,000."

Boehner spoke to reporters briefly later, repeating his claim that Obama has not gotten serious about discussions.

Obama has shifted his proposal from seeking $1.6 trillion in taxes and some $400 billion in cuts to $1.2 trillion in taxes and about $900 billion in cuts. He has also offered switching to a stingier formula for Social Security cost-of-living adjustments that is opposed by many Democrats.

Boehner spokesman Michael Steel responded directly to Schumer. "Sen. Schumer has been advocating essentially this policy for years," Steel said. "For him to oppose it now would be -- as some on the Senate side put it -- the height of hypocrisy."

Michael McAuliff covers Congress and politics for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.

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