U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) speaks to the media outside his office on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Dec. 7, 2012. With about three weeks left before the "fiscal cliff" deadline, the task of avoiding the steep tax hikes and spending cuts was down to talks between Boehner and President Barack Obama, according to Capitol Hill aides. (Photo: Reuters/Yuri Gripas)
House Speaker John Boehner blamed President Obama for "wasting" another week even as the deadlock between the GOP and the White House over the approaching "fiscal cliff" continued. Obama reiterated he "won't compromise" on raising taxes for the wealthiest Americans.
"When it comes to the fiscal cliff that's threatening our economy and threatening jobs, the White House has wasted another week," NBC quoted Boehner as saying on Saturday. "This isn't a progress report because there's no progress to report."
Boehner added if the president was serious, he should "come back to us with a counteroffer. When is he going to take a step towards us?"
However, Obama insists that taxes for the wealthiest Americans will be raised. "If we're serious about reducing our deficit while still investing in things like education and research that are important to growing our economy – and if we're serious about protecting middle-class families – then we're also going to have to ask the wealthiest Americans to pay higher tax rates," the president said during his weekly address. "That's one principle I won't compromise on."
Vice President Joe Biden also said tax hike for the wealthiest is non-negotiable. "It would take 15 minutes from the time the decision was made by the Speaker of the House to pass and make permanent middle class tax cut," NBC quoted him as saying. "The president would probably have me sprint up to the Hill to bring the bill down for him to sign. The top brackets have to go up. It's not a negotiable issue. It's theoretical we can negotiate how far up."
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi questioned why the House was not in session. "Why are we not here to even debate the middle-income tax cut? Could it be because the Republicans are holding the middle-income tax cuts, as they have all along, hostage to tax cuts for the wealthy?" she said at a news conference. "This is a moment of truth. The clock is ticking. Christmas is coming. The goose is getting fat. But in many homes across America, it's a very, very lean time."
The plan the White House has floated would achieve $4.5 trillion in savings to the government, according to Reuters. The proposal includes around $1 trillion in cuts already enacted into law and would set up an "expedited process" to spirit through Congress some of the most comprehensive legislation in decades. It also seeks comprehensive reform of the U.S. tax code and overhaul of federal programs like Medicare by next Aug. 1, 2013.
Including some immediate savings such as taxing the rich at a higher rate, proposals for next year would raise about $1.5 trillion in new revenues, and those proposals would also involve an additional $2.4 trillion in spending cuts.
Boehner has said that the revenue increases should come from tax reform (eliminating deductions and credits) instead of tax rate increases.
After the November election, Boehner and other House Republicans expressed willingness to accept additional revenue as part of a compromise. But Democratic leaders have focused on what they are unwilling to compromise on.