WASHINGTON, (UPI) — House Speaker John Boehner says he and Republicans still hope to reach agreement with President Obama on a “balanced” approach that averts the fiscal cliff.
“What we’ve offered meets the definition of balance,” Boehner said Tuesday during a media availability, “but the president is not there yet.”
He said the Obama administration’s latest offer Monday was “at $1.3 trillion in new revenues for only $850 billion in net spending reductions. That’s not balanced in my opinion.”
Boehner said he was going to “Plan B,” which he said would protect taxpayers earning $1 million or less and “have all of their current rates extended.”
“I continue to have hope that we can reach a broader agreement with the White House that would reduce spending as well as have revenues on the table,” Boehner said. “I think it would be better for our country, but at this point, having a backup plan to make sure that as few American taxpayers are affected by this increase as possible, moving down that path is the right course of action for us.”
White House press secretary Jay Carney said Obama has compromised and was willing to have rates go up on those making $400,000 – up from his original $250,000 – as a “good faith effort.”
Obama’s latest proposal wasn’t a broken campaign promise but a compromise that presents a package “that is balanced and asks the wealthiest to pay more, enact significant spending cuts, and puts us on a fiscally sustainable path,” Carney said.
“I mean … if you think about it, in the so-called Plan B … makes no sense,” the spokesman said. “The president demonstrated an obvious willingness to compromise and to move more than halfway toward the Republicans. [To] leave that offer on the table, including the $1.22 trillion in spending cuts that the president has put forward, because you don’t want to ask someone making $950,000 a year, to pay more in taxes would be a shame, and it would be bad policy.”
Carney said the “lines of communication remain open” between the president and Boehner.
“[The] president believes that the opportunity is there. The parameters of a deal are clear,” Carney said. “The path to a compromise is clear, and he hopes that the Republicans will meet him on that path and do something that would be very good for the American people, for the middle class, and for our economy.”
Obama and Boehner, R-Ohio, met at the White House Monday, their third conversation in the past five days.
Under Obama’s new proposal, lower tax rates enacted during President George W. Bush’s administration would remain in effect on incomes up to $400,000, as well as raise tax revenues $1.2 trillion over the next decade, a decrease from $1.4 trillion and the $1.6 trillion Obama originally sought.
Washington is scrambling to pass a major deficit-reduction plan before Jan. 1, when more than a half-trillion dollars in automatic tax increases and spending cuts would kick in, sending the country over the so-called fiscal cliff.
As part of the latest offer, Obama agreed to accept a GOP proposal to slow Social Security spending growth by calculating cost-of-living increases differently, several media sources said. To assuage Democratic resistance to the proposed formula change, Obama’s plan would include protections for beneficiaries deemed “most vulnerable,” the Journal said.
The $122 billion in savings was part of $800 billion in program cuts Obama proposed, including $400 billion from federal healthcare programs, $200 billion from “mandatory programs” such as farm price supports, $100 billion from military spending and $100 billion from domestic programs under Congress’s annual discretion, The New York Times said.
Obama’s offer did not include raising the Medicare eligibility age to 67 from 65, a Republican proposal opposed by many Democrats, The Wall Street Journal said.
His offer also called for increased infrastructure spending, a temporary extension of unemployment insurance benefits and a permanent extension of other tax breaks that expire at the end of the year, the Journal said.
Obama’s offer also doesn’t include continuation of the current payroll tax cut, the Journal said.