White House Draws Line in Sand for Boehner in Fiscal Cliff Talks

PHOTO: Speaker John Boehner, R-OH., listens to President Barack Obama speak before a budget meeting at the White House with other cabinet members on Nov. 16, 2012 in Washington, D.C.
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President Obama and his White House team appear to have drawn a line in the sand in talks with House Republicans on the "fiscal cliff."

Tax rates on the wealthy are going up, the only question is how much?

"Those rates are going to have to go up," Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner flatly stated on ABC's "This Week." "There's no responsible way we can govern this country at a time of enormous threat, and risk, and challenge ... with those low rates in place for future generations."

But the president's plan, which Geithner delivered last week, has left the two sides far apart.

In recounting his response today on "Fox News Sunday," House Speaker John Boehner said: "I was flabbergasted. I looked at him and said, 'You can't be serious.'

"The president's idea of negotiation is: Roll over and do what I ask," Boehner added.

The president has never asked for so much additional tax revenue. He wants another $1.6 trillion over the next 10 years, including returning the tax rate on income above $250,000 a year to 39.6 percent.

Boehner is offering half that, $800 billion.

In exchange, the president suggests $600 billion in cuts to Medicare and other programs. House Republicans say that is not enough, but they have not publicly listed what they would cut.

Geithner said the ball is now in the Republicans' court, and the White House is seemingly content to sit and wait for Republicans to come around.

"They have to come to us and tell us what they think they need. What we can't do is to keep guessing," he said.

The president is also calling for more stimulus spending totaling $200 billion for unemployment benefits, training, and infrastructure projects.

"All of this stimulus spending would literally be more than the spending cuts that he was willing to put on the table," Boehner said.

Boehner also voiced some derision over the president's proposal to strip Congress of power over the country's debt level, and whether it should be raised.

"Congress is not going to give up this power," he said. "It's the only way to leverage the political process to produce more change than what it would if left alone."

The so-called fiscal cliff, a mixture of automatic tax increases and spending cuts, is triggered on Jan. 1 if Congress and the White House do not come up with a deficit-cutting deal first.

The tax increases would cost the average family between $2,000 and $2,400 a year, which, coupled with the $500 billion in spending cuts, will most likely put the country back into recession, economists say.

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