Boehner To House GOP: Don't Make Christmas Plans

By: CBS News (Posted by Josh Mabry)
By: CBS News (Posted by Josh Mabry)

(CBS News)-- Despite some tentative signs of progress on a deal to avert the so-called "fiscal cliff," House Speaker John Boehner continues to insist that Republicans and Democrats are as far apart as ever in the negotiating process -- and is sending out warning signals to House Republicans about the possibility of working through the holidays.

In meeting with the GOP conference this morning, Boehner told members not to make plans for Christmas, CBS News has learned, and members leaving the meeting said there were no indications from Boehner's remarks that any real progress has been made between the two chief negotiators involved in the process: Boehner and President Obama.

The White House sent its most recent offer to the Capitol Monday for a compromise on staving off the "cliff," a series of tax hikes and spending cuts set to go into effect next year. That deal included $1.4 trillion worth of revenue, down from the president's initial $1.6 trillion bid, and Republicans counter-offered Tuesday. Later on Tuesday, Mr. Obama and Boehner spoke by telephone, which Boehner described on Wednesday as "deliberate."

Even as behind-the-scenes conversations carry on, in public, Republicans maintain that the president's latest proposal of $1.4 trillion is still way more than they are willing to swallow. In a press briefing today, Boehner cast Mr. Obama's plan as "mainly tax hikes" and said it "does not meet the two standards that I laid out the day after the election."

"The president seems to be walking us ever so slowly towards the cliff," said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., in remarks alongside the speaker."We're going to stay here right up until Christmas Eve, throughout the time and period before the new year, because we want to make sure that we resolve this in an acceptable way for the American people."

Even while leading Republicans indicate a deal is not imminent, some top Democrats say they still believe it can happen before Christmas. In an interview today with "CBS This Morning" House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said she was " optimistic" about the prospects of a deal coming sooner rather than later.

"I'm more optimistic than that," Pelosi said on "CBS This Morning" when asked if the absence of a deal this week would mean it wouldn't get done until after Christmas. "I do think that [House Speaker John Boehner] is a well-intentioned person. He knows what the risk is. Because actually this isn't about us, this is about the American people."

And in an interview with ABC's Barbara Walters that aired Tuesday night, Mr. Obama said he remains "confident" about the situation.

"I'm pretty confident that Republicans would not hold middle-class taxes hostage to trying to protect tax cuts for high-income individuals," he said. "I don't think they'll do that."

With less than two weeks left before the Christmas holidays, however, lawmakers from both sides are trying to insure their legislative priorities don't get sold out in a deal brokered primarily between Mr. Obama and Boehner.

On the Senate floor today, Majority Leader Harry Reid, R-Nev., continued to press for a hike in tax rates for the nation's wealthiest earners.

"The American people aren't going to be under the illusion that the Republicans are sometime in the future going to come up with revenue," Reid said. "They're going to come up with raising the rates. Or, Madam President, we're going over the cliff."

"How many times do we have to go through this drill to know that it's an unfair game?" he added.

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