U.S. President Barack Obama and Republicans in Congress appear to remain
far apart in talks to avert the so-called fiscal cliff of $600 billion
in automatic government spending cuts and expiring tax cuts. The latest
U.S. jobs figures played into the debate.
With days dwindling for a compromise, the Republican Speaker of the
House of Representatives, John Boehner, bluntly accused the White House
of wasting time and deliberately pushing the economy closer to the
Boehner says President Obama failed to counter an offer this past week
from House Republicans of $800 billion in higher tax revenues, half of
President Obama's $1.6 trillion offer as an opening negotiating position
three weeks ago.
"Reports indicate that the president has adopted a deliberate strategy
to slow walk our economy right to the edge of the fiscal cliff," Boehner
said. "Instead of reforming the tax code and cutting spending, the
president wants to raise [tax] rates. But even if he got the tax rate
hike he wanted, understand we would continue to see trillion dollar
deficits for as far as [the] eye can see."
Boehner described his latest telephone conversation with Obama as
pleasant but "more of the same" and accused the president of adopting a
"my way or the highway" approach.
President Obama insists that expiring Bush-era tax cuts be extended
for those earning $250,000 or less, but is firm that wealthier Americans
need to pay more to support deficit reduction.
A key issue under discussion is the specific level below Clinton-era
rates for top income earners that would be set by any compromise.
Vice President Joe Biden said the White House will respond to "any
serious offer" and said the issue of extending middle class tax cuts
should be separated from tax levels for the wealthy.
"Do not hold hostage the relief for the middle class because you insist
that 120,000 families get a $500 billion tax cut over the next 10
years," he said.
Before a meeting with President Obama on Friday, House of
Representatives Democratic minority leader Nancy Pelosi spoke on Capitol
"As long as they will not touch one hair on the head, or get one red
cent from the high end [earners], we will never have the revenue
necessary to combine with the savings and with the spending cuts to
reduce the deficit, to create jobs, to grow the economy, to improve the
lives of the American people," she said.
warn that failure to reach a compromise will slow the U.S. economy in
the new year. The hope is for a "down payment" agreement that would set
the stage for much broader deficit and debt negotiations in 2013.
Playing into the debate on Friday were the latest government jobs
figures showing 146,000 jobs added to the economy, and a drop in overall
unemployment from 7.9 to 7.7 percent.
Asked if Republicans are concerned that failure to reach a compromise
with the president could harm job growth, Boehner said it is Obama who
is risking such damage by insisting on higher taxes for wealthier
The White House called the latest employment report, showing the 33rd
straight month of private sector job increases, further evidence the
economy continues to heal from the recession that began in 2007.