(AP) Boehner: No progress in fiscal cliff talks
By ANDREW TAYLOR
House Speaker John Boehner said Friday there has been no progress in negotiations to avert a “fiscal cliff” combination of automatic tax increases and spending cuts in January and called on President Barack Obama to produce a new offer.
Four days after House Republicans offered a plan to raise tax revenues and cut spending, Boehner told reporters that the White House has failed to outline its proposal and instead has pushed the nation closer to a fiscal cliff that economists warn could plunge the country into another recession. The two men also spoke privately by phone on Wednesday. Boehner described the conversation as pleasant “but just more of the same.”
Boehner singled out for criticism White House aides who have said Obama was willing to allow Bush-era tax cuts for everyone to expire on Jan. 1 and automatic, across-the-board spending cuts to kick in the next day. He called their comments “reckless talk.”
Boehner repeated the long-standing Republican argument that raising tax rates would be detrimental to small businesses and “is not going to help our economy and it’s not going to help those seeking work.” Obama has insisted that any deal must include an increase in the tax rates for high earners.
But Boehner declined an opportunity to take a hard line on tax rates, skirting a direct question on whether he might be willing to accept some increase in the top tax rate, currently set at 35 percent.
The Republican leader pointed out that he had offered on Monday to raise tax revenues by $800 billion over the next decade by ending or reducing tax breaks, particularly on the wealthy. The Republican plan would cut spending by $1.4 trillion, including by trimming annual increases in Social Security payments and raising the eligibility age for Medicare from 65 to 67.
At the White House, officials used Friday’s mixed jobs report, with its modest growth in hiring, as an argument to embrace Obama’s plans to avoid the fiscal cliff with a package of rate hikes for the rich, public works spending and refinancing help for struggling homeowners.
Obama met at the White House on Friday with top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi, discussing a number of issues, including the fiscal cliff, a White House official said.
Tax cuts enacted during President George W. Bush’s first term are scheduled to expire Dec. 31, automatically boosting tax rates to levels in place under President Bill Clinton. Obama wants those increases only to affect households with earnings of more than $250,000.
Obama is insisting that rates for upper income taxpayers rise and also wants permanent authority to prevent Congress from blocking increases in the nation’s borrowing limit. The government is on track to hit its $16.4 trillion debt ceiling later this month, though the Treasury could extend the day of reckoning to February.
Separately, Pelosi, D-Calif., called on GOP leaders to schedule a vote on Senate-passed legislation to hike the top two tax rates for individual income exceeding $200,000 and family income over $250,000.