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Boehner to Obama: Stop slow-walking

Dec. 11, 2012 at 4:54 PM   |   Comments

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WASHINGTON, Dec. 11 (UPI) -- U.S. House Speaker John Boehner Tuesday broke his silence on "fiscal cliff" talks, saying it's time for President Obama to stop slow-walking a solution.

But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., blamed the slow pace of negotiations on in-fighting among Republicans.

"A lot of people know that the president and I met on Sunday," Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a speech on the House floor. "It was a nice meeting, it was cordial. But we're still waiting for the White House to identify what spending cuts the president is willing to make as part of the 'balanced approach' that he promised the American people. ...

"The longer the White House slow-walks this process, the closer our economy gets to the fiscal cliff."

Reid told his weekly Capitol Hill news conference until Republicans offer a detailed plan, "there's nothing to do." He said he is not hopeful a deal can be finalized before Christmas.

George W. Bush-era tax cuts will expire and draconian spending cuts will kick in Jan. 1 unless the president and Congress can resolve their differences on tax levels for the wealthiest Americans and entitlement reform.

President Obama has urged the House to vote on Senate-passed legislation that would keep the tax cuts for the first $250,000 of income, allowing the reduced rates to expire on incomes greater than that to raise $950 billion in revenue. Tax code revisions and $50 billion in new stimulus spending also are on the table.

Republicans have proposed closing loopholes and eliminating deductions to raise $800 billion in revenue.

"Now even if we did exactly what the president wants, we would see red ink for as far as the eye can see. That's not fixing our problem either -- it's making it worse and it's hurting our economy," Boehner said, urging spending cuts.

"Washington has a spending problem. Let's be honest -- we're broke. And the plan that we've offered is consistent with the president's call for a 'balanced approach.'"

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., echoed Boehner during a media availability with several colleagues.

"I think we're basically running out of time. It's time to see whether the president's willing to cut any spending at all and whether he's willing to lead his party in the direction of making an agreement with us," McConnell said.

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., told reporters Obama apparently is "obsessed with raising taxes."

Both the White House and Republicans say they are waiting for the other side to respond to their proposals.

"Discussions with the White House are taking place, but we have no detail to share about the substance of those conversations," Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said in a statement.

"The Republican offer made last week remains the Republican offer, and we continue to wait for the president to identify the spending cuts he's willing to make as part of the 'balanced' approach he promised the American people," the statement said.

White House spokesman Jay Carney also declined to characterize the talks and said the White House was waiting for Republican action.

"The president does believe that we can reach an agreement," Carney told reporters as Obama flew to Detroit to promote his demand that tax rates rise on income above $250,000.

Obama "has put forward a very detailed plan," Carney said. "He has shown how he believes we need to achieve the necessary revenue targets in order to put together a large deal that would reflect the goal of $4 trillion in deficit reduction that is so meaningful in terms of our long-term fiscal sustainability. And he's made clear in his detailed proposal that he's willing to enact cuts in our mandatory entitlement programs, including our healthcare programs.

"What we haven't seen yet is any specificity at all from Republicans on revenue -- we've seen a sentence on revenue," Carney said. "And while there have been encouraging statements by individual lawmakers about the realization that rates will go up on the top 2 percent, we haven't seen anything specific from Republicans with regard to that."

Republicans want more spending cuts than Democrats will accept, and Democrats have proposed more tax increases than Republicans will accept.

Carney said Obama also called Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., from Air Force One on his way to Detroit.

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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