Negotiations between Congress and the White House over the “fiscal cliff” may be continuing in private this weekend, but on television airwaves the top Republican on Capitol Hill reported talks are still at an impasse.
“I would say we’re nowhere. Period,” House Speaker John Boehner said in an interview aired on “Fox News Sunday.” “We’ve put a serious offer on the table by putting revenues up there to try to get this question resolved. But the White House has responded with virtually nothing. They’ve actually asked for more revenue than they’ve been asking for the whole entire time.”
It was on Thursday that party leadership admitted the little public movement seen on the issue had reached a standstill. Each side accuses the other of lacking “serious” proposals on how to avoid the mix of mandatory spending cuts and tax hikes set to take effect on Jan. 1 if a federal budget agreement cannot be reached.
Boehner said the Democratic plan left him “flabbergasted” when it was delivered to him by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner this week.
“I looked at him and said, ‘You can’t be serious.’ I’ve just never seen anything like it. You know, we’ve got seven weeks between Election Day and the end of the year. And three of those weeks have been wasted with this nonsense,” he said.
Hitting multiple networks this morning, Geithner told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on “This Week” that the ball was “absolutely” in the GOP’s court, attributing the row to posturing.
“I actually think that we’re going to get there. I mean, you know, just inevitably going to be a little political theater in this context,” the secretary said. “Sometimes that’s a sign of progress. Think we’re actually making a little bit of progress, but we’re still some distance apart.”
A major sticking point in negotiations continues to be Democrats’ proposal to let the Bush era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans expire, while leaving those same breaks in place for lower income brackets. Households earning more than $250,000 a year would see their income tax increase from 36 percent to 39.6 percent on income above that amount.
“There’s just no reason why 98 percent of Americans have to see their taxes go up because some members of Congress on the Republican side want to block tax rate increases for 2 percent of the wealthiest Americans,” Geithner said. “Remember, those tax rates, those tax cuts, cost a trillion dollars over 10 years.”
Since allowing those tax breaks to expire was a central tenet of President Obama’s reelection campaign, Fox’s Chris Wallace asked Boehner whether that signaled Republicans should yield the point.
“Listen, what’s the difference where the money comes from?” Boehner responded. “We put $800 billion worth of revenue, which is what he’s asking for, out of eliminating the top two tax rates.”
Boehner maintained his party’s stance that other portions of the White House proposal were unbalanced, including $1.6 trillion in tax increases over 10 years coupled with $400 billion in unspecified Medicare cuts over the same time period. Another measure would give the executive branch authority to determine the debt ceiling unless countered by two-thirds of Congress, which Boehner said was “silliness.”
“Congress is never going to give up this power,” he said.
Rep. Tom Cole, deputy House GOP whip, told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos this morning on “This Week” that he believes Republicans do not need to counter Obama’s offer with a formal plan.
“I don’t think we need to put a formal proposal out on the table,” Cole said on the “This Week” roundtable. “The speaker has already said that revenue is on the table. We have an idea of how to get there in terms of not raising rates but finding another way through the tax code and reform.
“Beyond that we’ll see how negotiations go,” added Cole, who broke ranks with his party last week by calling for immediately extending middle class tax cuts scheduled to expire at the end of the year.
ABC’s Michael Conte contributed to this report.