For the first time in more than three weeks, President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner met face-to-face Sunday at the White House to talk about avoiding the fiscal cliff. White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest would offer no details saying only, “The lines of communication remain open.”
Erskine Bowles, the co-creator of a debt reducing plan, who was pessimistic a couple weeks ago, said he likes what he’s hearing. “Any time you have two guys in there tangoing, you have a chance to get it done,” Bowles said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
Obama and the White House’s bargaining team insist on raising tax rates for the nation’s highest earners, they are not demanding the precise 39.6 percent top rate spelled out in the president’s budget. And in the past few days, Republican congressional leaders have reiterated their opposition to rate increases without explicitly ruling them out.
“We’re getting down to as late as it’s physically possible to actually turn a framework into enactable legislation and then actually get it passed,” said Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., who is anticipating a complicated bill with “many real consequences for average Americans’ lives.” He added: “For senators to responsibly vote on a big, bold framework or package, we need time to review, debate and discuss this. And we are rapidly running out of running room.”
Both parties have incentive, however. The “fiscal cliff” is a series of tax hikes and budget cuts that kick in next year if the White House and Congress are unable to reach a debt reduction agreement. That prospect affects every American, and could ring down a new recession. There’s also the holiday incentive. Many members of both parties would like to get something done by Christmas. For that to happen, given the congressional calender, the president and the Speaker will probably need to put up something by the end of this week.
Obama wants $1.6 trillion over the next decade, but many Democrats privately say they would settle for $1.2 trillion. Boehner has offered $800 billion, and Republicans are eager to keep the final tax figure under $1 trillion, noting that a measure to raise taxes on the rich passed by the Senate this summer would have generated only $831 billion.
Savings from health and retirement programs, a concession from Democrats necessary to sell tax hikes to GOP lawmakers. Obama has proposed $350 billion in health savings over the next decade. Boehner has suggested $600 billion from health programs and an additional $200 billion from using a stingier measure of inflation, reducing cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security recipients.
Bipartisan votes in the Republican-run House of Representatives and Democratic-controlled Senate probably will be needed to pass any Obama-Boehner deal, giving the minorities in both chambers power in the negotiations.
Although the president has been criticized by Republicans for “campaign style” rallies on the “fiscal cliff,” the president today will hit the road when he heads to Michigan to tour Daimler’s Detroit Diesel Corporation.
The White House said he will talk again about the “fiscal cliff” and, if a deal isn’t struck before the end of the year, how devastating it will be to the economy and the middle class. His remarks come on the heels of his weekly address over the weekend where he repeated that he won’t budge on letting the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy expire.
Whatever the president and Speaker of the House agree to, the Republican-run House and Democratic Senate must vote to approve it.