WASHINGTON Leaders’ comments show two sides ‘still some distance apart’ on ‘fiscal cliff’ talks
House Speaker John Boehner said Sunday that he was “flabbergasted” by the Obama administration’s latest proposal to avoid tax increases and spending cuts at year-end, while Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said Republicans were in a “difficult place” and had to make more concessions.
Boehner, an Ohio Republican, said on “Fox News Sunday” that when Geithner outlined the administration’s proposal for him on Thursday, he looked at Geithner and said: “You can’t be serious.”
Geithner said on ABC’s “This Week” that although the two sides were “still some distance apart,” tax rates would have to go up for the wealthiest 2 percent of taxpayers.
“That’s an essential part of any deal,” he said.
Under the administration’s proposal, tax deductions and exclusions for wealthy people also would be limited.
The White House proposal calls for about $1.6 trillion in additional revenue over the next 10 years, $600 billion in spending reductions and $200 billion in additional spending for unemployment insurance, mortgage relief and public works projects to stimulate the economy.
The administration also wants Congress to virtually relinquish authority over future increases in the debt limit. But Boehner said it was “silly” to think that Congress would give up that power.
If Congress does not act, next year would begin with a series of tax increases and spending cuts, the combination of which economists believe would jeopardize the economy.
Boehner objects to increasing taxes on top earners
Boehner said he had made concessions by announcing after the election that Republicans were willing to take a look at additional revenues. But he said increasing taxes on top earners would hurt small businesses and slow economic growth.
He also said he was determined to curb spending and solve the country’s debt problem.
When asked for an assessment of where things stood, Boehner said: “We’re nowhere. Period.
“The president’s idea of the negotiation is ‘Roll over and do what I ask,’ he said.
‘We’re actually making a little bit of progress’
But Geithner said the ball was now in the Republicans’ court. “They understand that,” he said.
When they come back with a new proposal, he said the administration would consider it.
He said a certain amount of “political theater” was inevitable. “We’re actually making a little bit of progress, but we’re still some distance apart,” Geithner said.
Obama’s political team ramped up its efforts, blasting out an email Sunday night urging supporters to pressure Congress to extend tax cuts that would add up to about $2,000 for a middle-class family of four.
Stephanie Cutter, who was Obama’s deputy campaign manager, said in the email that the president was trying to get Congress to “do the right thing and act before the New Year, but he needs our help. We’ve got a good track record here: When we make our voices heard and urge Congress to take action – whether it’s about health care, student loans, Wall Street reform, or ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ – they listen.”
“If we gave the president $1.6 trillion of new money, what do you think he’d do with it?” asked Boehner. “He’s going to spend it. It’s what Washington does.”
Boehner responds to Cole’s remarks
Boehner acknowledged in his interview, aired Sunday, that he wasn’t happy with public remarks by Republican Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, who said he was ready to go along with Obama’s plan to renew expiring income tax cuts for the majority of Americans and negotiate the rates on top earners later.
Cole didn’t back down Sunday on his earlier comments.
“The reality is, nobody can look at this budget and think if you don’t reform entitlements you can balance it. You can give the president every tax increase he’s asked for, you’d still be in the hole,” he said.
Geithner appeared on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” NBC’s “Meet the Press,” CNN’s “State of the Union,” ABC’s “This Week” and “Fox News Sunday.” Cole appeared on ABC’s “This Week.”