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Fiscal Cliff Update: Boehner and Obama Still Negotiating

by Newsteam Staff
December 10, 2012

House Speaker Boehner speaks during a news conference on the fiscal cliff in Washington December 5, 2012. (Yuri Gripas/Courtesy Reuters) House Speaker Boehner speaks during a news conference on the fiscal cliff in Washington December 5, 2012. (Yuri Gripas/Courtesy Reuters)

House Speaker John Boehner and President Obama met privately at the White House Sunday to discuss the fiscal cliff (LATimes), their first face-to-face meeting in over three weeks. Details of the meeting have not been made public, but “it was the clearest sign yet that after a week of public posturing and dire warnings intended to sway public opinion, the private negotiations may be producing progress,” report the LA Times.

In his weekly address on Saturday, President Obama urged Congress to extend the middle-class tax cuts before the end of the year and reiterated his willingness to compromise  on a number of issues, as long as tax rates on top earners are raised:

[I]f we’re serious about reducing our deficit while still investing in things like education and research that are important to growing our economy – and if we’re serious about protecting middle-class families – then we’re also going to have to ask the wealthiest Americans to pay higher tax rates. That’s one principle I won’t compromise on.

After all, this was a central question in the election. A clear majority of Americans – Democrats, Republicans and Independents – agreed with a balanced approach that asks something from everyone, but a little more from those who can most afford it. It’s the only way to put our economy on a sustainable path without asking even more from the middle class. And it’s the only kind of plan I’m willing to sign.

Boehner has accused Democrats of “slow-walking” the U.S. economy to the edge of the fiscal cliff and wrote in a column on Friday that:

Republicans won’t be party to an agreement that shields big businesses and preserves special-interest tax breaks while raising tax rates on small businesses and hurting our economy. Our proposal instead offers a way for Democrats to get the revenue they seek along with meaningful spending reforms, without tax rate hikes that will cost jobs.

To date, though, the president has refused to consider our plan, while also refusing to offer a viable alternative. The proposal put forth by House Republicans is a reasonable framework.  If the president won’t accept it, he has a responsibility to offer a plan of his own that can pass both chambers of Congress.

But even if Boehner and Obama agree on a budget deal before the end of the year, there’s no guarantee that House Republicans would allow it to pass, reports Politico:

It might seem like a foregone conclusion that the leaders of both parties — the only ones really at the negotiation table — can notch the requisite number of votes presuming they reach an agreement to avert the whopper combination of tax hikes and sequestration-mandated budget cuts.

But Boehner’s House remains very much the same unruly place that initially sank the 2008 financial rescue package, sending stock and commodity prices plummeting. The Senate has also done nothing to improve its reputation for deliberating … and deliberating … and deliberating.

Add to the mix rank-and-file lawmakers’ resentment over being frozen out of the fiscal cliff talks, atop many other big bills such as the Budget Control Act and health care, which have hit the floor seemingly greased to move, and Washington dysfunction could yet unravel any handshake agreement between the president and speaker.

–Contributing Editor Kirsti Itameri

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