Obama, Boehner hold "frank" meeting amid "fiscal cliff" frustration

Thu Dec 13, 2012 9:01pm EST
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By Richard Cowan and Jeff Mason

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama and House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner held a "frank" face-to-face meeting on Thursday in an effort to break an impasse in talks to avert the "fiscal cliff" of steep tax increases and spending cuts.

With an end-of-year deadline looming, the two leaders talked at the White House as frustration mounted over the recent lack of progress in negotiations that had become bogged down in a daily round of finger-pointing.

Aides on both sides used similar language to describe the 50-minute meeting, calling it "frank" and repeating that lines of communication remained open.

The meeting, also attended by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, was announced after frustration broke out on both sides at a lack of progress and U.S. stocks turned negative due to fears the economy could dip into recession again if politicians fail to break the gridlock in Washington.

At times raising his voice, Boehner criticized Obama earlier in the day for putting jobs and the economic recovery at risk by insisting on raising tax rates for the wealthiest 2 percent.

White House spokesman Jay Carney responded by reaffirming Obama's commitment to raising the top rates and complaining there had been no movement from Republicans on that crucial topic.

"What we have not seen from the Republicans is any movement at all on the fundamental issue," Carney told reporters. "Republicans need to accept the fact that rates will go up on the top 2 percent."

In an interview with a Minnesota CBS television affiliate, Obama said he was hopeful of getting a deal and willing to make more spending cuts as long as revenue from higher tax rates for the rich was part of the deal.   Continued...

Speaker of the House John Boehner (L) arrives for negotiations on the "fiscal cliff" with President Barack Obama at the White House in Washington December 13, 2012. Negotiations between congressional Republicans and the White House hit a wall on Thursday, with both sides voicing frustration at the lack of progress on averting the "fiscal cliff" of steep tax hikes and spending cuts. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts