Despite a rapid succession of proposals and counteroffers between the White House and Capitol Hill in the past few days, House Speaker John Boehner today said the two sides are nowhere near a deal on the " fiscal cliff," and continued to criticize what he called the president's emphasis on tax revenue instead of tackling the country's long-term deficit problems.
"The president's plan to avert the fiscal cliff still does not meet the two standards that I laid out the day after the election," Boehner, R-Ohio, said. "His plan does not fulfill his promise to bring a balanced approach to solving this problem. It's mainly tax hikes, and his plan does not begin to solve our debt crisis. It actually increases spending."
The speaker said Obama proposed $1.4 trillion in new tax revenue, which is too high to pass the House of Representatives, where a majority of members are still reluctant to increase taxes. The two leaders spoke Tuesday evening on the phone after the alternative offers moved up and down Pennsylvania Avenue, a conversation the speaker described as "deliberate."
"That cannot pass the House or the Senate," Boehner said.
"There were some offers that were exchanged back and forth yesterday, and, you know, the president and I had a pretty frank conversation about just how far apart we are," Boehner said.
Boehner last week sent the president a pitch for $800 billion in new revenue, as long as the revenue was achieved through comprehensive tax overhaul that closed loopholes and capped deductions, not changes to the tax rates.
"I was born with a glass half-full," he said. "I remain the most optimistic person in this town, but we've got some serious differences."
Asked whether it might take a day of steep losses in the financial markets to spook enough members into voting for an ultimate package, Boehner declined to speculate.
"I'm not going to talk about what outside factors could impact these negotiations, but I will say that presidents get elected to lead," he said. "We are going to begin to solve our debt problem, and we're not going to be able to solve it by kicking the can down the road and doing all the gimmicks that have been done in the past. It's time to address our spending problem."
Twenty days remain until the "fiscal cliff" deadline expires.
President Obama predicted Monday that Republicans will ultimately accept tax hikes for the wealthy.
"Taxes are going up one way or another," the president told ABC's Barbara Walters. He said Republicans shouldn't hold tax meausre for most Americans "hostage" to protect the lower rates that benefit top earners. Republicans say allowing rates for the wealthy, many of whom are small business owners, to rise, will hurt the economy.
Some lawmakers are tired of waiting for the negotiations between Boehner and the White House.
Sen. Bob Corker, R-TN., gave an impassioned speech on the issue today in the Senate.
"It looks like based on where the negotiations are right now that this issue is going to move into next year," he said.
Corker is one of the few Republicans who has indicated in the past that he would be open to higher tax rates for the wealthy if lawmakers can try to pass a more sweeping tax reform package next year.
"We can put our head in the sand but we know we're going to deal with a portion of the revenue issue at year end," Corker said, "what I would say to my friends in the house is that candidly, if we are able to rescue the 98% and then we dealt with the upper 2% either with rates or by tax deductions - I'm open to both - and we even protected the small businesses like so many people on sides of the aisle have suggested."
In an attempt to not just wait for a deal, Corker says he'll propose a deal of his own in the next day that will would cut, reform Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid by $900 billion to $1 trillion and offer a suggestion for raising the debt ceiling by $900 billion to $1 trillion.
"At the end of this year, in some form or fashion whether we embarrass ourselves and go over the cliff or before this year ends, we're going to offer revenues, right? I don't know how anybody could believe that revenues aren't coming so would I would say to everyone here, let's move to entitlement reform."