WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — House Speaker John Boehner accused President Barack Obama on Tuesday of slow-walking negotiations to avoid the “fiscal cliff,” and urged him to name specific cuts in government spending he would support as part of any compromise.
“Let’s be honest. We’re broke. The plan we offered is consistent with the president’s call for a balanced approach,” said the Ohio Republican. “We’re still waiting for the White House” to do the same.”
“Longer the White House slow walks this process, the closer we are” to going over the fiscal cliff, Boehner said.
The White House and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi disputed the assertion within moments.
“The irony of this is that the White House offer had very specific cuts, the GOP counteroffer had almost none,” tweeted communications director Dan Pfeiffer.
In remarks on the House floor immediately after Boehner spoke, Pelosi also called on him and the Republican leadership to permit a vote on Obama’s plan to extend expiring tax cuts for most Americans, while letting them lapse at upper incomes. She predicted it would have “overwhelming support.”
The fast-paced events underscored the difficulty confronting the White House and congressional leaders as they hope to avert across-the-board tax increases and spending cuts in government programs that are scheduled to take effect at the turn of the year. Economists say the combination is enough to send the economy into recession.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell insisted on Tuesday that Obama and Democrats spell out where they would cut government spending as part of any massive budget deal to avoid the “fiscal cliff” double hit of automatic tax hikes and spending cuts.
The Kentucky Republican complained that Obama has spent all his time talking about raising tax rates while failing to specify where he would reduce out-of-control government spending that has caused trillion-plus deficits.
“The president seems to think that if all he talks about are taxes, and that’s all reporters write about, somehow the rest of us will magically forget that government spending is completely out of control, and that he himself has been insisting on balance,” McConnell said in remarks on the Senate floor.
Obama and White House officials have insisted that the GOP embrace higher tax rates on upper incomes as the fiscal cliff deadline fast approaches. The automatic tax increases and spending cuts will kick in after the first of the year, and economists have warned that they could plunge the nation into another recession.
McConnell mocked several government programs identified in recent reports on wasteful spending.
“A few weeks ago, Senator (Tom) Coburn issued a study that showed taxpayers are funding Moroccan pottery classes, promoting shampoo and other beauty products for cats and dogs, and a video game that allows them to relive prom night,” McConnell said. “Get this: taxpayers also just spent $325,000 on a Robotic squirrel name RoboSquirrel.”
Leaders in both parties argue that they are eager to avert a fiscal cliff, but there have been no substantive signs of progress in the negotiations.
Obama’s plan would raise $1.6 trillion in revenue over 10 years, in part by raising tax rates on incomes over $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for couples.
He has recommended $400 billion in spending cuts over a decade.
He also is seeking extension of the Social Security payroll tax cut due to expire on Jan. 1, a continuation in long-term unemployment benefits and steps to help hard-pressed homeowners and doctors who treat Medicare patients.
Boehner’s plan, in addition to calling for $800 billion in new revenue, envisions $600 billion in savings over a decade from Medicare, Medicaid and other government health programs as well as $300 billion from other benefit programs and another $300 billion from other domestic programs.
It would trim annual increases in Social Security payments to beneficiaries, and it calls for gradually raising the eligibility age for Medicare from 65 to 67, beginning in a decade.
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