Geithner cautiously optimistic about cliff
WASHINGTON, Dec. 2 (UPI) -- U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner Sunday predicted a deal will be reached with Republican leaders on avoiding the so-called fiscal cliff.
Geithner made the rounds of the Sunday television talk shows and sounded fairly upbeat about the prospects for an agreement on taxes and spending that would allow the United States to avoid Draconian tax hikes and budget cuts.
"I do think we are going to get there," Geithner said on CBS' "Face the Nation.
Geithner predicted Republicans would have to soften their tough stance on extending tax breaks for the wealthiest taxpayers because the consequences of going over the cliff included higher taxes for middle-class workers and a likely ripple effect of an overall economic slowdown coupled with cuts to social services.
"I mean, inevitably there is going to a little bit of political theater in this context," Geithner told ABC's "This Week." "Sometimes that's a sign of progress. I think we're actually making a little bit of progress, but we're still some distance apart."
Democrats have portrayed congressional Republicans as going to the mat to protect tax breaks for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans, enacted during the administration of former by President George W. Bush and set to expire at the end of the year. President Barack Obama campaigned for re-election on extending tax breaks on all income up to $250,000 but insisted the wealthy should pay more as the nation struggles with growing debt and stubbornly high unemployment.
The GOP contends the wealthiest Americans are not merely the idle rich but are entrepreneurs and business owners who would have to put off hiring -- or even lay off workers -- if their tax bill went up. Republicans have insisted on emphasizing tax and entitlement reform as the path to fiscal stability.
Geithner said the White House plan offers a balanced approach that would aid the overall economy.
"Our proposal is to let those rates go back to Clinton levels for 2 percent of the wealthiest Americans," he said on NBC's "Meet the Press. "Combine that with tax reforms that limit deductions for the wealthiest Americans. We think if you do that, alongside the spending savings, then you can put the country back on a much more responsible fiscal path."
Chris Wallace of "Fox News Sunday" asked Geithner about a comment by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, that the Obama administration proposal is not serious, and a report that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., laughed when the White House presented it to him.
"You know, Chris, they are in a kind of tough position now and it's going to be -- it's obviously a little hard for them now and they are trying to figure out where they go next and we might need to give them time to figure out where they go next," Geithner said.
"If they've got some different suggestions, they want to go further in some areas, then they should lay it out to us," Geithner said.
He said Republican congressional leaders are having difficulty "trying to figure out how to find a way to support things that they know they are going to have to do. That's going to be hard for them."
"What we can't do, Chris, is try to figure out what works for them."
On CNN's "State of the Union," Geithner expressed optimism Republicans will modify their staunch opposition to changing the Bush-era tax breaks given the serious political stakes.
"This is something we can do," he said. "I think we're going to get there, because there's too much at stake not to get there, not just for the American economy, but for the world economy."
Warner: Benghazi controversy misdirected
WASHINGTON, Dec. 2 (UPI) -- U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., said criticism of administration talking points is taking focus away from "what happened" in an attack on a U.S. mission in Libya.
In an appearance on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday, Warner said he is surprised people are spending so much time debating U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice's merits as a possible Secretary of State, because she hasn't been nominated for the position.
Rice has come under attack by U.S. conservatives -- including congressional Republicans, who wrote to President Barack Obama in November asking him not to nominate her to succeed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
In the letter, the Republicans said Rice's credibility was gravely harmed by her account of the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. They said she "propagated a falsehood" that the attack was a spontaneous response to a U.S.-produced video that denigrated the Prophet Mohammed.
The administration said more than a week later terrorism may have played a role.
"Now, that's amazing to me that we should be focusing on not so much what was said about which talking points, but how did the tragedy where four Americans were killed in Benghazi happen?" Warner said. "How do we make sure if they come under assault that we have got assets to be able to come in and protect them.
"What I find remarkable is the president hasn't even nominated anyone yet," he said. "What we ought to be looking at is what happened in Benghazi, how do we make sure it never happens again?"
Report: Boy Scout leader vetting was lax
LOS ANGELES, Dec. 2 (UPI) -- Failure to conduct background checks resulted in pedophiles joining the ranks of Boy Scouts of America, a Los Angeles Times analysis of scouting records found.
The newspaper reported Sunday its analysis of confidential records found the organization paid a price for its long-running stand against performing background checks into prospective troop leaders.
Unlike many other volunteer groups dealing with minors, the BSA opposed background checks on the grounds they were expensive and provided a false sense of security, the Times said. There were also concerns the checks would discourage adults from volunteering.
At the same time, however, the lax security seemed to allow men with checkered pasts to become involved, the report said. Records reviewed by the Times found 230 men became leaders between 1985-1991 despite records of arrests or convictions on sex charges involving minors.
The same individuals were accused of molesting more than 400 boys while in scouting.
The BSA ignored repeated demands from parents to improve its vetting process, the newspaper said.
BSA told the Times in a written statement its precautions had been improved in recent years.
"Numerous independent experts have recognized that our programs for protecting Scouts from abuse are among the best in the youth-serving community," the statement said.
4 found shot dead at LA boarding house
LOS ANGELES, Dec. 2 (UPI) -- Los Angeles police said four people were found shot to death early Sunday outside what appeared to be an unlicensed boarding house near a police station.
Police received calls about 4:25 a.m. PST, reporting gunfire at the house in Northridge, not far from the department's Devonshire station. Officers responding to the calls said they found the four victims lying face-down outside the house, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Investigators did not immediately locate a weapon. They were interviewing several residents of the home, who the newspaper said had been inside at the time of the shooting.
Los Angeles City Councilman Mitchell Englander, whose district includes the crime scene, said the neighborhood is generally quiet and safe, the Times reported.