WASHINGTON — House Speaker John Boehner told his Republican members Thursday that chances of reaching a budget deal within the next few days "was maybe 50-50," a party aide said.
"Whether or not it happens is really dependent on whether they [Democrats] continue to insist on tax hikes" over Republican objections, the aide said. Boehner offered his assessment at a closed-door meeting with members shortly before White House talks with President Barack Obama and other congressional leaders.
Boehner told a closed meeting of the House Republican Conference that tax hikes were “off the table,” even as he considers a variety of ways to increase revenue, according to Politico.
Boehner said he thought the White House’s new, more aggressive debt-reduction plan is a test balloon to see how Democrats reacted to serious tinkering with the nation’s entitlement structure. Obama is considering options to cut as much as $4 trillion in government spending over the next 10 to 12 years, including changes to Medicare and Social Security.
The speaker said it will be clear within the next few days whether an agreement can be reached.
“Whether or not it’s possible depends on whether the White House insists on tax hikes,” a GOP aide told Politico.
But Boehner said revenue increases could be part of an agreement with the Obama administration and congressional Democrats — but not tax increases, several sources reportedly told Politico. New revenue could come from spectrum auctions, user fees and the sale of un-usued federal lands, among other options.
Boehner offered little else on negotiations.
“Everything is on the table except raising taxes on the American people,” Boehner said, when asked about reaching a deal. When asked about comprehensive tax reform being part of the deal, Boehner declined to entertain the proposition, but said he thought it was generally important to overhaul the tax code.
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