Obama cranks up "fiscal cliff" pressure, Boehner says talks stalemated

Fri Nov 30, 2012 5:52pm EST
 
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By Mark Felsenthal

HATFIELD, Penn. (Reuters) - President Barack Obama turned up the pressure in "fiscal cliff" talks on Friday, hitting the road to drum up support for his drive to raise taxes on the wealthy and warning Americans that Republicans were offering them "a lump of coal" for Christmas.

In a visit to a Pennsylvania toy factory, Obama portrayed congressional Republicans as Scrooges who risked sending the country over the fiscal cliff rather than strike a deal to avert the tax increases and spending cuts that begin in January unless Congress intervenes.

In Washington, House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner declared a stalemate in the talks and said Obama's plan to raise taxes on the rich was the wrong approach.

"There is a stalemate. Let's not kid ourselves," the Ohio Republican said. "Right now we are almost nowhere."

Lawmakers are nervously eyeing the markets as the deadline approaches, with gyrations likely to intensify pressure to bring the drama to a close.

Major stock market indexes fell as Boehner spoke but recovered afterward. It was a repeat of the pattern earlier in the week when the Speaker offered a gloomy assessment.

The latest round of high-stakes gamesmanship focuses on whether to extend the temporary tax cuts that originated under former President George W. Bush beyond their December 31 expiration date for all taxpayers, as Republicans want, or just for those with income under $250,000, as Obama and his fellow Democrats want.

"If Congress does nothing, every family in America will see their taxes automatically go up on January 1," Obama said during his visit to a factory in suburban Philadelphia. "That's sort of like the lump of coal you get for Christmas. That's a Scrooge Christmas."   Continued...

 
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the Rodon Group, a manufacturer of toys in Hatfield, Pennsylvania, November 30, 2012. Obama pushed for congress to resolve the issue of U.S. debt and Bush-era tax cuts that are set to expire at the end of the year. REUTERS/Jason Reed