There’s “clearly a chance” that Republicans and the White House won’t come to agreement over the nation’s budget in time to avert the so-called fiscal cliff, U.S. House Speaker John Boehner said.
“I would say we’re nowhere, period,” Boehner said on a taped segment of the “Fox News Sunday” program that aired today. “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.”
After a week of jockeying for advantage in the fiscal talks, Republican Boehner and Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner appeared separately on the Fox show today and blamed each other for the standoff.
Whether the impasse ends is “a decision that lies in the hands of the Republicans that are now opposing increases in tax rates,” Geithner said.
The deadlock over whether to continue Bush-era tax rates for the top 2 percent of wage earners extends a struggle that has been waged for more than a year between Democrat Obama and Republicans in Congress. The issue has gained more urgency as the clock ticks down on more than $600 billion in tax increases and spending cuts scheduled to start taking effect in January.
Obama has proposed a framework that would raise taxes immediately on top earners and set an Aug. 1 deadline for rewriting the tax code and deciding on spending cuts, according to administration officials.
It calls for $1.6 trillion in tax increases, $350 billion in cuts in health programs, $250 billion in cuts in other programs and $800 billion in assumed savings from the wind-down of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Obama’s proposal included more new spending than cuts, said Boehner, of Ohio.
“They wanted to extend unemployment benefits,” he said. “They wanted a new stimulus program for infrastructure. They wanted to extend some other tax breaks. And all of this new stimulus spending would literally be more than the spending cuts that he was willing to put on the table.”
Republicans may be willing to consider caps to income-tax deductions for the wealthy, among other solutions, Boehner said.
“You could cap deductions at a percent of income,” he said. “That would be one way to get there. You could eliminate certain deductions for the wealthiest in our country. You could do all of that.”
Among the proposals Obama floated last week was one giving the president the power to raise the nation’s debt limit. Currently, Congress must approve any increase.
Boehner dismissed that idea as “silliness.”
“Congress is never going to give up this power,” Boehner said.
Boehner also said that the political standoff is having a negative impact.
“Just the threat of the fiscal cliff is already hurting the economy,” he said.