Boehner Says Negotiations over Looming Fiscal Crisis “Not A Game”

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House Speaker John Boehner, clearly frustrated after a closed-door meeting  with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, said President Obama’s money man  offered no “specific” plan for averting the looming end-of-year fiscal crisis,  adding: “This is not a game.”

“First, despite the claims that the president supports a balanced approach,  Democrats have yet to get serious about real spending cuts,” the Ohio Republican  said. “And secondly, no substantive progress has been made in the talks between  the White House and the House over the last two weeks.”

Obama dispatched Geithner and White House Legislative Director Rob Nabors to  meet separately Thursday with Boehner as well as Senate Majority Leader Harry  Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Nancy  Pelosi.

The sessions are seen as an important step in determining how the government  will avoid a year-end package of tax increases and spending cuts that could  throw the economy into recession.

Reid, meanwhile, said Democrats are still waiting for a reasonable proposal  from Republicans on how to resolve the so-called “fiscal cliff.” He told  reporters Thursday that “We need a proposal from them.”

Republican lawmakers and the White House are at odds, in particular, over  Obama’s push to let tax cuts expire for wealthier Americans.

Obama has chosen to delegate discussions with lawmakers to his team until the  makings of a deal firm up enough for him to engage directly. He met with the  four leaders on Nov. 16 and spoke with Boehner and McConnell by phone last  week.

The president also spoke again with Boehner on Wednesday, a source familiar  with the conversation told Fox News. A senior administration official would not  characterize what was said on the call or say if a face-to-face meeting is  planned. Boehner described the conversation with Obama Wednesday as “direct and  straightforward.”

The White House and Congress are trying to reach a deal before Jan. 1 – when  all of the Bush-era tax cuts are set to expire and huge reductions to the  federal budget kick in automatically. Those spending cuts are part of a default  agreement by Congress after it failed to reach a more measured deal to reduce  the trillion-dollar annual deficits that have brought the national debt to more  than $16 trillion.

The mix of tax increases and budget cuts will equal roughly $100 billion  alone next year and about $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years should Congress  and the White House fail to reach a deal. Some economists say that could plunge  the economy into a recession.

On the Senate floor Thursday, McConnell said raising tax rates during tough  economic times is the “last thing we want to do.”

“We’re not insisting on keeping tax rates where they are to protect some  sliver of the electorate,” the Kentucky Republican told lawmakers. “We’re  insisting on keeping tax rates where they are, first and foremost, to protect  jobs. And because we don’t think government needs the money.”

“A lot of people around here seem to have forgotten that we’re still in the  middle of a jobs crisis. I can tell you a lot of folks are hurting in Kentucky.  National unemployment’s still just a hair below 8 percent, and millions of  Americans are still looking for work,” he continued. “So if it’s an iron law of  economics that you get less of what you tax, why on earth would we want to raise  taxes on work?

“Rates matter because they affect behavior. The higher the tax rate, the  higher the disincentive to work,” he said.

Obama’s tax plan calls for an extension on tax cuts for most Americans. His  proposal would allow for tax rates to increase for the wealthiest 2 percent.

He said Thursday that he believes members of both parties can reach a  framework on a debt-cutting deal before Christmas.

At least one Republican lawmaker has already left party ranks to say the GOP  should accept the president’s tax proposal.

Conservative Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole, for instance, told GOP colleagues in a  private meeting Tuesday that it’s better to make sure that tax cuts for the 98  percent of taxpayers who make less than $200,000 or $250,000 a year are extended  than to battle it out with Obama and risk increasing taxes on everyone.

Cole’s remarks are noteworthy because he’s a longtime GOP loyalist and a  confidant of House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. They were made in a meeting of  the House GOP Republican whip team, which is a sounding board for GOP  leaders.

“If we don’t believe taxes should go up on anybody, why can’t we accept a  deal that takes 98 percent out and still leaves us free to fight on the other  grounds,” Cole said in an interview on Wednesday. “I’m not for using the  American people for leverage or as a hostage.”

Source: Fox News

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