Posts Tagged Boehner

Hopes of Pre-Christmas Fiscal Cliff Deal Fade

fiscal cliff

Hopes of a pre-Christmas deal on the U.S. Fiscal Cliff appeared to be dissolving after The White House accused Republicans of mounting a pointless diversionary vote to prevent the looming year-end fiscal crisis.

If the two sides cannot reach a deficit-cutting agreement before the end of the year, taxes for all Americans will rise and huge automatic spending cuts will be triggered, which could cause a recession and jolt the global economy.

But talks between President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner on averting the “fiscal cliff” have stalled and Republicans now plan to vote on a fallback “Plan B” that the White House sees as pointless grandstanding.

However, Obama has vowed to veto the plan, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he will not bring it up for a vote in the Democratic-controlled chamber. White House spokesman Jay Carney called it a “multi-day exercise in futility.”

Still, passage of Plan B could give Boehner the political cover he needs to strike a deal that would break with decades of Republican anti-tax orthodoxy.

“Time’s running short. I’m going to do everything I can to protect as many Americans from an increase in taxes as I can,” Boehner told a news conference.

Though it does not raise taxes on as many affluent Americans as Obama wants, the bill would put Republicans on record as supporting a tax increase on those who earn more than $1 million per year – a position the party opposed only weeks ago.

That could make it easier eventually to split the difference with Obama, who wants to lower the threshold to households that earn more than $400,000 annually. Obama also faces resistance on his left flank from liberals who oppose cuts to popular benefit programs, which Republicans say must be part of any deal.

Obama and Boehner will need to engage in more political theater to get lawmakers in both parties to sign on to the painful concessions that will have to be part of any deal to avert the cliff and rein in the national debt, analysts say.

Even as he pressured Obama and the Democratic Senate to approve his plan, Boehner indicated that he was not willing to walk away from the bargaining table.

“The country faces challenges, and the president and I, in our respective roles, have a responsibility to work together to get them a result,” Boehner said.

Obama and Boehner aim to reach a deal before the end of the year, when taxes will automatically rise for nearly all Americans and the government will have to scale back spending on domestic and military programs. The $600 billion hit to the economy could push the U.S. economy into recession, economists say.

Investors so far have assumed the two sides will reach a deal, but concerns over the fiscal cliff have weighed on markets in recent weeks. The S&P 500 index of U.S. stocks was up 0.4 percent in Thursday trading, despite a round of strong data on economic growth and housing.

Shares crept up after Boehner said he was prepared to work with Obama to prevent the fiscal cliff from kicking in.

Lawmakers are eager to wrap up their work and return home for the Christmas holiday, but congressional leaders kept the door open for last-minute action.

The Senate was expected to leave town on Thursday or Friday, but Reid said it could return next week to vote on any deal.

Boehner indicated the House would stay in session after Thursday’s vote, scheduled for 7:45 p.m. EST (0045 GMT on Friday).

Several influential conservative groups have condemned Plan B, and some Republicans are expected to vote against it. But passage appeared likely after the House narrowly voted by 219 to 197 to bring the bill to the floor for debate.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, an influential business group that has often tangled with the Obama administration, offered grudging support.

To placate conservatives, Boehner also scheduled a vote on legislation that would shift $55 billion in scheduled defense cuts to cuts in food and health benefits for the poor and other domestic programs.

That measure also would roll back some of the Dodd-Frank financial regulation reforms of 2010. It is not expected to become law.

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President Obama and Speaker Boehner meet at White House to discuss Fiscal Cliff

English: U.S. President is greeted by Speaker ...

 

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.

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Speaker Boehner sounds warning over lack of progress on Fiscal Cliff Talks

John Boehner

House Speaker John A. Boehner delivered a blow Thursday to the optimism that Washington leaders have been showing over negotiations on the fiscal cliff, saying that there’s been “no substantive progress” in attempts to reach a deal and that “the White House has to get serious” on entitlement spending.

Boehner said he was “disappointed” after a phone call with Obama on Wednesday night and a meeting with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on Thursday moved the two sides no closer to an agreement to avert the tax hikes and spending cuts that will be triggered at the start of 2013 unless Congress intervenes.

“I’m disappointed in where we are and disappointed in what’s happened over the last couple of weeks,” Boehner, of Ohio, told reporters after a private session with Geithner at the Capitol.

“No substantive progress has been made in the talks between the White House and the House over the last two weeks,” he said. “There’s been no serious discussion of spending cuts so far, and unless there is, there’s a real danger of going off the fiscal cliff.”

Markets dipped briefly into negative territory on Boehner’s comments, continuing a pattern of gyration based on the latest utterance or headline about the outlook for an agreement to avert the fiscal cliff.

The tone was in sharp contrast to the one expressed on November 16, the last time Obama met with congressional leaders. Boehner then stood next to Democratic leaders and voiced optimism they could find common ground in fiscal cliff negotiations.

Complicating the debate on Thursday was a renewed fight over raising the U.S. debt ceiling. That explosive issue, which could have been handled separately in the spring, was thrust into the fiscal cliff fray on Thursday in an exchange between Republicans and Democrats.

Boehner said any debt limit increase needed to be matched or exceeded by spending cuts to be proposed by Obama as part of the cliff negotiations.

White House spokesman Jay Carney responded by demanding that Congress go ahead and raise the debt ceiling as part of any year-end deal to avoid the cliff. To do otherwise, he said, would be “deeply irresponsible.”

The last partisan fight over the nation’s borrowing limit in 2011 was settled by a law that led directly to the fiscal cliff and to a downgrade of the government’s credit rating.

Geithner, Obama’s top negotiator in the talks, met with congressional leaders from both parties at the Capitol as the end-of-year deadline approaches to avoid the onset of $600 billion in tax hikes and spending cuts that analysts warn could push the U.S. economy back into recession.

The immediate issue is whether the tax cuts that originated in the administration of former President George W. Bush should be extended beyond December 31 for all taxpayers including the wealthy, as Republicans want, or just for taxpayers with income under $250,000, as Obama and his fellow Democrats want.

Republicans have said they are willing to consider new ways to raise revenue as long as Democrats and Obama agree to accompany it with significant spending cuts, particularly to entitlement programs like the government-sponsored Medicare and Medicaid healthcare plans.

“Without spending cuts and entitlement reform, it’s going to be impossible to address our country’s debt crisis. Right now, all eyes are on the White House,” Boehner said.

Boehner said Geithner and the administration had not offered any new plans during the meeting to break the impasse, while Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said Democrats were still waiting for a “reasonable” proposal from Republicans.

Carney said the president had put forward “very specific spending cuts,” including some in the entitlement healthcare programs, but had not seen any movement from Republicans.

Despite a few cracks in Republican ranks, most notably from Republican Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma, neither side has budged significantly in recent weeks from its position, leaving the markets and political analysts alike to grasp at wording nuances.

In the absence of progress, or any realistic understanding as to when or if Republicans and Democrats might avert the cliff or come up with some deficit reduction agreement, prodding has started to come on a regular basis from business leaders as well as Federal Reserve officials.

New York Fed President William Dudley and Richard Fisher of the Dallas Fed, highlighted the problems that U.S. lawmakers were causing for both hiring and the economy with each day they fail to strike a deal to avoid a pending fiscal crisis.

Dudley said on Thursday that if it is not addressed, the economic contraction is likely to be larger than normal because interest rates are so low.

The post-election lame-duck session of Congress also has made clear that until the two sides get over the immediate tax issue, they will not be able to move forward on the serious discussions they desire on longer-term deficit reduction and tax reform.

Keeping the nation in suspense down to a white-knuckled deadline has become the rule rather than the exception for Congress in recent years.

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President Obama indicates he is open to compromise

Obama congressPresident Barack Obama on Friday invited congressional leaders to the White House to start negotiating a deal to prevent sharp tax hikes and spending cuts from going into effect at the end of the year and said he was “open to compromise.”

“This was a central question during the election,” Obama said in his first postelection comments on the economy. “The majority of Americans agree with my approach.”

Following up, Obama’s spokesman said later that the president would veto any legislation extending tax cuts for families making $250,000 or more.

The president, speaking in the White House East Room, said he wasn’t wedded to every detail of the plans he outlined during the election, adding, “I’m open to compromise.” But he offered no indication that he was willing to back down.

Republicans stood their ground. At the Capitol, Republican House Speaker John Boehner said he remains unwilling to raise tax rates on upper-income earners. But he left open the possibility of balancing spending cuts with new revenue that could be achieved by revising the tax code to lower rates but also eliminate some tax breaks.

Obama said he had invited congressional leaders of both parties to the White House next week for their first postelection negotiations. Their assignment: avert the “fiscal cliff” tax increases and automatic spending cuts due to hit in January. Both parties agree that those changes, the result of failed deficit-cut talks earlier this year, could send the economy back into recession.

He avoided any mention of actual tax rates in his remarks, saying only that the wealthy should pay more. That omission might seem to open a door for negotiating, but spokesman Jay Carney’s statement on the likelihood of a veto suggested otherwise.

Both sides agree that failure to address the automatic tax increases and spending cuts could cripple the economy. A Congressional Budget Office report on Thursday projected that the economy would fall back into recession if there is a protracted impasse in Washington.

Obama and Republicans have tangled over the tax cuts first approved by George W. Bush for years. The president gave in to Republican demands to extend the cuts across the board in 2010, but he ran for re-election on a pledge to allow the rates to increase on families making more than $250,000 a year.

Republicans say raising tax rates on the wealthiest Americans is a non-starter. Boehner said it would hurt small businesses while they are still struggling to recover from the recession.

“I’m proposing that we avert the fiscal cliff together in a manner that ensures that 2013 is finally the year that our government comes to grips with the major problems that are facing us,” Boehner said Friday. He said cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps, known as entitlement programs, have to be part of the equation.

Boehner also indicated that raising the debt limit, which the government will reach sometime in the spring, should be part of any negotiations. Pressed for details beyond that framework, he said he didn’t want to limit ideas to address the problem. He said the burden is on Obama.

“This is an opportunity for the president to lead,” Boehner said. He repeated a version of that phrase four times during the 11 minutes he spoke. “This is his moment to engage the Congress and work toward a solution that can pass both chambers.”

If Congress and the administration don’t act, the abrupt fiscal tightening would tip the weak economy into recession, analysts have said. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said this week unemployment could rise above 9 percent year if nothing is done to avert the so-called fiscal cliff.

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