Boehner: "No Progress" On "Fiscal Cliff" Talks

By: CBS/AP (Posted by Kion Hudson)
By: CBS/AP (Posted by Kion Hudson)

(CBS/AP)-- Despite continued negotiations between the White House and House Speaker John Boehner for a deal to avert the so-called "fiscal cliff," Boehner says "no progress" has yet been made in hammering out a compromise.

In a brief press conference with reporters today, Boehner accused the White House of having "wasted" another week by negotiating from a "my way or the highway" standpoint.

With 25 days to reach a deal to avert the "cliff" -- a series of tax hikes and spending cuts set to start kicking in early next year, potentially triggering another recession - neither side has yet agreed to budge on the key sticking point: Whether or not the Bush-era tax cuts should be extended for the top two percent of Americans.

The president insists he will not sign off on a proposal that does not increase tax rates for households earning $250,000 or more per year, while Republicans have repeatedly reiterated their refusal to raise tax rates in any way.

Both parties have offered up plans reflective of these ideologies, and both were quick to reject the other side's proposal. The Obama administration said it would not respond to the GOP plan with a counter-offer, because it did not view it as serious enough to warrant one.

In his remarks today, Boehner called on President Obama to reverse that decision.

"Four days ago, we offered a serious proposal based on testimony of President Clinton's former chief of staff. Since then, there's been no counter-offer from the White House.

Instead, reports indicate that the president has adopted a deliberate strategy to slow walk our economy right to the edge of the fiscal cliff," Boehner told reporters. "I came out the day after the election to put revenues on the table, to take a step toward the president to try to resolve this. When is he going to take a step towards us?"

The White House is in the midst of a public relations campaign aimed at pressuring Republicans into extending the middle class tax cuts before broaching the rest of the so-called "fiscal cliff." The real work, however, continues behind the scenes between the Democratic president and the speaker of the Republican-led House.

In recent days, a handful of Republicans have signaled openness to the possibility of some degree of increased tax rates, and Boehner did not close the door on that possibility today when asked if he might be willing to raise tax rates to somewhere between current and Clinton-era levels. But, he said, no such deal would be possible until the president responds to his proposal with a counter-offer.

"There are a lot of things that are possible to put the revenue that the president seeks on the table," he said. "But none of it's going to be possible if the president insists on his position, insists on my way or the highway. That's not the way to get to an agreement that I think is important for the American people and very important for our economy."

Earlier this week, Mr. Obama phoned Boehner in an apparent attempt to further negotiations, but the Ohio Republican suggested today the two made little progress.

"The phone call was pleasant but was just more of the same," he said. "It's time for the president to be serious and come back to us with a counter-offer."

Vice President Joe Biden today will have lunch with middle class Americans to press the importance of extending current income tax rates, enacted during the Bush administration, for Americans making under $250,000.

The event follows a meeting Mr. Obama had with a middle class family in Virginia yesterday, during which he expressed optimism about the prospects of a deal.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, meanwhile, warned yesterday that there will be no deal before the year is up if Republicans don't agree to raise taxes on income over $250,000. Her remarks mirrored a threat from Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who said this week that the White House is "absolutely" prepared to go over "cliff" should negotiations fail.

Pelosi, however, is not a part of negotiations: While negotiations over an economic package continue between the president's staff and Boehner's staff, all other Washington lawmakers have been left out of the loop purposefully, CBS News White House correspondent Bill Plante reports.

While the White House and Democrats are threatening to go "off the cliff," one economist -- Moody's Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi -- said Washington can afford to go off the "cliff" as along as it reaches a comprehensive economic deal by February. That deal, Zandi said, would have to include the "fiscal cliff" issues, the nation's long-term fiscal sustainability and raising or eliminating the debt ceiling.


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