WALK ON BY
Boehner's only other apparent option - one that he hinted at late on Thursday following the collapse of his bill - would be to walk away and leave the problem on Democrats' doorstep.
"Now it is up to the president to work with Senator Reid on legislation to avert the fiscal cliff," Boehner said in a statement referring to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
But in a closed-door session before that statement, Republican lawmakers said Boehner told them that he would at least try to work out something with Obama.
Either way, Boehner faces the possibility of having to battle not only Democrats for the next two years, but also his own membership on major bills.
"We have people (Republican lawmakers) who felt like they had to stand on the principle ... they couldn't vote for anything (that raised any taxes). I don't quite understand it," lamented Representative Buck McKeon, the powerful chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, who oversaw passage of a $633 billion defense spending bill for 2013.
"If you don't have the votes, you can't move forward," McKeon said of the Plan B fiscal cliff bill.
Representative Steven LaTourette, a moderate Republican who is retiring at year's end, told reporters that Thursday's legislative defeat - and public relations failure - will not stop Boehner from being re-elected House Speaker on January 3. "Name one member who opposes him," LaTourette challenged reporters.
Firing Boehner, LaTourette said, would be "like saying the superintendent of the insane asylum should be discharged because he couldn't control the crazy people."
Nonetheless, two years into his stint as Speaker, Boehner still has not found the right formula for corralling his Republican majority, especially the Tea Party conservatives whose victories in 2010 helped Republicans wrest control of the House. However, he has taken steps in recent weeks to punish a handful of uncooperative Republicans.
Since unveiling his plan on Tuesday, several conservative groups, including the Heritage Foundation, waged a spirited effort to kill the measure.
Those groups, LaTourette said, had been "making their phone calls, and they're bombing people" with pressure to vote against the bill. That, he added, "makes people nervous" about primary election challengers being recruited in 2014 by outside groups to defeat Republican lawmakers who vote for any tax increase.
"I doubt his speakership is in trouble," said American Enterprise Institute scholar Norm Ornstein, "The big question is whether, and when, he is willing to bring up a bill that will require more Democrats than Republicans to pass."