House Republicans, rejecting President Barack Obama’s demand for higher tax rates, countered with a $2.2 trillion deficit-cutting plan that would trim Medicare and Social Security and cap tax deductions for top earners.
The proposal, in a letter today to Obama from House Speaker John Boehner and other Republican leaders, seeks $800 billion in tax revenue in the next decade and would slow the growth in Social Security cost-of-living payments. It would reduce entitlement program costs by at least $900 billion, including raising the Medicare eligibility age, and cut $300 billion in discretionary spending.
The proposal “does not meet the test of balance,” White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer said in a statement. “In fact, it actually promises to lower rates for the wealthy and sticks the middle class with the bill.” He said the plan included “nothing new.”
Obama and congressional leaders are trying to avert more than $600 billion in tax increases and automatic spending cuts starting in January. The talks reached a stalemate late last week when Republicans rejected Obama’s proposal to raise $1.6 trillion in taxes, including by raising tax rates on the top 2 percent of earners.
Today’s offer is “absolutely movement,” said Joe Minarik, a budget aide in President Bill Clinton’s administration. “If Republicans accept revenues, Democrats have to move a little bit” on entitlements, he said.
Still, Minarik said, “Democrats don’t want to touch” Social Security and the Medicare eligibility age. Obama and other Democratic leaders have repeatedly said that Social Security is off the table
Boehner said the Republican offer tracks a proposal last year by Clinton’s former chief of staff, Erskine Bowles, which would generate revenue by limiting deductions and credits instead of raising tax rates.
Bowles, though, said in an e-mailed statement that the proposal doesn’t reflect his plan. “Circumstances have changed since then,” he said. “It is up to negotiators to figure out where the middle ground is today.”
Boehner called today’s Republican plan a “credible plan that deserves serious consideration by the White House.” He described last week’s White House proposal for $1.6 trillion in tax increases as a “la-la land offer.”
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Under the proposal, increases in Social Security benefits would be reduced under a new method of calculating cost-of- living increases. The so-called chained consumer price index would also apply to cost of living adjustments for government pensions and to setting income-tax brackets.
The plan would raise the eligibility age for Medicare recipients, currently 65, although it didn’t specify the size of the increase. That would save $100 billion, according to an excerpt of Bowles’s Nov. 1, 2011, congressional testimony attached to the letter sent to Obama.
“To protect millionaires, Speaker Boehner’s offer would force middle-class families to pay higher taxes,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said in a statement. “Republicans have made an offer, but now it is time for them to get serious about forging a balanced approach.”
Boehner’s letter said the additional $800 billion would come through “pro-growth tax reform that closes special- interest loopholes and deductions while lowering rates.” He didn’t lay out specific proposals for curbing tax breaks and didn’t offer additional revenue for 2013.
In the past, many Republican calls for additional revenue through a rewrite of the tax code have meant the money would come from higher economic growth spurred by the overhaul. Obama and the Congressional Budget Office won’t accept so-called dynamic scoring.
Republican aides said the $800 billion would come from conventional scoring, which means there would be a tax increase.
In a series of network television appearances over the weekend, Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner challenged Republicans to make a counteroffer to the president’s plan. He said there would be no agreement without higher income tax rates on the wealthiest Americans. Boehner said yesterday that the White House was wasting time and that the talks were “nowhere.”
Obama’s plan would trade $600 billion in spending cuts for $1.6 trillion in tax increases, primarily targeting families with more than $250,000 in annual income.
Last week, Republicans said they would only consider creating new revenue by ending or limiting some deductions and credits and possibly by capping income-tax deductions for high earners.
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