Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Obama, Boehner exchange 'fiscal cliff' proposals

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner were struggling late Tuesday to prevent negotiations over the deficit from breaking down after they traded proposals for averting the year-end "fiscal cliff" but made no progress toward an agreement.

Obama telephoned Boehner, R-Ohio, on Tuesday, hours after receiving the speaker's latest proposal for a deal on taxes and spending. The offer was virtually identical to the document Obama summarily rejected just one week ago, according to Republican aides.

Obama's chief negotiator, Rob Nabors, later rushed to the Capitol to meet with Boehner's top aides.

Even as Boehner spokesman Michael Steel announced that a new offer had been delivered to the White House, he complained that Republicans are "still waiting" for Obama to propose serious cuts to popular health and retirement programs that are forecast to swell the national debt in coming decades.

"Where are the president's spending cuts?" Boehner asked earlier in the day in a speech on the House floor. "The longer the White House slow-walks this process, the closer our economy gets to the fiscal cliff."

White House officials, meanwhile, complained that they were still waiting for Republicans to produce an offer that includes higher tax rates for the wealthy.

"There is a deal out there that's possible, and we do believe that the parameters of a compromise are pretty clear," said White House press secretary Jay Carney. "What is required is agreement by Republicans to some specific revenues that includes raising rates on the highest earners."

The sniping comes just three weeks before nearly $500 billion in automatic tax hikes and spending cuts are set to take effect.

On Tuesday, Obama said in an interview with ABC News that he remains open to additional policies, such as raising the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67.

"When you look at the evidence, it's not clear that it actually saves a lot of money," he said. "But what I've said is, let's look at every avenue, because what is true is we need to strengthen Social Security, we need to strengthen Medicare for future generations."

Still, senior Republicans echoed Boehner's criticism that Obama's offer does too little to cut spending. White House officials bristled at the charge.

"If there is one fact that should not be in dispute it ought to be this: The president, unlike any other party to these negotiations, has put forward detailed spending cuts as well as detailed revenue proposals," Carney told reporters.

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