Carney: GOP plan 'fantasy'

Dec. 13, 2012 at 9:01 PM
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WASHINGTON, Dec. 13 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, Thursday had a "frank" discussion on the "fiscal cliff," a Boehner spokesman said.

Their third-in person meeting on negotiations lasted for 50 minutes, CBS News reported.

"The president and speaker had a frank meeting in the Oval Office tonight," Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck said in a statement. "There will be no further readout of the meeting, but lines of communication remain open."

The White House and Republicans earlier traded insults over "fiscal cliff" negotiations Thursday, with the White House saying the GOP is into "fantasy economics."

Boehner earlier told reporters Obama is "unserious" about working out an agreement to avert the expiration of Bush-era tax cuts and $500 billion in spending cuts that kick in Jan. 1.

As Obama walked across Pennsylvania Avenue to Blair House to attend a holiday party for the National Security Council, he would say only that the negotiations are "still a work in progress."

Boehner was scheduled to return home to Ohio for the weekend Friday.

White House spokesman Jay Carney bristled at Boehner's remarks earlier in the day telling reporters the House speaker has a poor track record in predicting what tax cuts would mean to the economy, citing Boehner's predictions during the Clinton administration.

He also repeated objections to GOP proposals submitted thus far, saying they constituted only two pages and lack specificity.

"It begs the question, what spending cuts have the Republicans put forward?" Carney said, labeling Republican assertions they can raise $800 billion in new revenue by just closing loopholes and eliminating deductions in the tax code "fantasy economics."

Boehner told reporters the negotiations have stalled because Obama has yet to outline what spending cuts he would favor.

"The president wants to pretend spending isn't the problem. That's why we don't have an agreement," Boehner said.

Politico reported Boehner told Obama privately he'd consider more than the $800 billion in tax revenues he already proposed but did not suggest how the new tax revenue would be raised. Boehner has adamantly refused to raise upper-income tax rates. Obama has insisted marginal income rates go up on incomes of more than $250,000.

The White House and Boehner's office had no comment on the report. Both sides agreed last week not to discuss internal discussions.

Boehner's reported olive branch came as a public-opinion poll indicated Americans clearly want a deal worked out, and soon.

About two-thirds told a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released Wednesday they want Congress to strike a deal to reduce the federal budget deficit, even if means cutting Social Security and Medicare, and increasing tax rates for people who earn more than $250,000 a year.

Seventy-six percent of respondents, including 61 percent of Republicans, said they would accept raising taxes above $250,000 to avoid the cliff.

By contrast, less than 3 in 10 said congressional Republicans should stick to their guns on the deficit, even if that meant triggering the cliff's automatic cuts to domestic and military spending and higher tax rates across the board.

If the spending cuts and tax increases go into effect, 24 percent said they would blame the Republicans and 19 percent said they'd blame Obama and the Democrats, while 56 percent said they'd blame both equally.

The telephone poll of 1,000 adults, including 300 adults who use only a cellphone, was conducted by the polling organizations of Peter D. Hart and Bill McInturff Dec. 6-9. It has an error margin of 3.1 percentage points, with subgroup tolerances larger, the Journal said.

Big-business executives are also coming out in support of higher taxes, saying avoiding the fiscal cliff is their No. 1 priority.

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