Boehner: Obama Must 'Get Serious' About Fiscal Cliff

Thursday, 29 Nov 2012 12:47 PM

 

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House Speaker John Boehner said President Barack Obama must “get serious” about the fiscal cliff while the speaker remains “hopeful” about talks aimed at averting more than $600 billion in spending cuts and tax increases.

Boehner, an Ohio Republican, told reporters today in Washington that there has been no substantial progress in talks between the White House and congressional leaders in the past few weeks. “This is a moment for adult leadership,” he said.

“Despite the claims that the president supports a balanced approach, the Democrats have yet to get serious about real spending cuts,” Boehner said. Unless there is a “serious” discussion of spending cuts, “there is a real danger of going off the fiscal cliff,” he said.

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U.S. stocks erased gains after Boehner spoke. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index was little changed at 11:44 a.m. in New York after earlier rallying as much as 0.7 percent.

Boehner spoke after meeting with Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, who is Obama’s lead negotiator on a deal to avoid an end-of-the-year fiscal cliff.

Geithner is meeting separately with each of the top four leaders in Congress in the first round of direct talks with congressional leaders since Obama hosted them on Nov. 16 at the White House.

Chief Executives

Yesterday chief executives from more than a dozen U.S. corporations shuttled from the Capitol to the White House and pressed for an agreement. Union leaders had visited Capitol Hill to lobby against any compromise that would cut entitlement programs as Republicans press for benefit cuts to Medicare and Social Security.

The Congressional Budget Office has warned that if Congress doesn’t avert the fiscal cliff, the economy could slip into recession next year and boost the unemployment rate to 9.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013, compared with 7.9 percent now.

Obama and Boehner said yesterday they were eager to reach a compromise before the end of the year, without publicly offering concessions. Republicans are demanding an increase in the Medicare eligibility age and an alternative yardstick for calculating inflation that would reduce annual Social Security cost-of-living adjustments, according to a Republican aide who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly.

Same Proposals

While these are the same proposals the president considered as part of failed debt talks last year, Democrats are now ruling out changes to Social Security as part of an agreement. Meanwhile, Republican leaders have shown no signs they’ll answer the president’s call for $1.6 trillion in new tax revenue by ending the George W. Bush-era tax rates for top earners. Fresh revenue should come from a tax overhaul in 2013, they say.

Amid the negotiations, Obama plans to have a private lunch today at the White House with Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential nominee he defeated in the Nov. 6 election.

Obama spoke with Boehner on the phone last night about negotiations to avert the fiscal cliff, said Kevin Smith, a spokesman for Boehner. Smith did not provide details.

Geithner and the president’s congressional liaison, Rob Nabors, are meeting today with Boehner, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

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Leaving Office

Geithner, 51, has said he plans to leave office next month after securing a deficit compromise, his last deal with Congress in a four-year tenure that also has included shepherding the Dodd-Frank financial rules overhaul to passage.

Obama was criticized by Republicans for taking his message on the road. Obama and Boehner are pursuing a different approach to talks this year after several rounds of face-to-face meetings between Obama and congressional leaders failed in 2011, according to a Republican congressional aide.

Both sides have appointed negotiators, with Geithner as Obama’s lead emissary. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp of Michigan, both Republicans, are advising Boehner and attended today’s meeting.


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