Boehner says Obama pushing country toward "fiscal cliff"

Fri Dec 7, 2012 2:03pm EST
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By Thomas Ferraro and Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican House Speaker John Boehner accused President Barack Obama of pushing the country toward the "fiscal cliff" Friday and of wasting another week without progress in talks.

With three weeks left before a combination of steep tax hikes and spending cuts kicks in unless Congress intervenes, Boehner said the administration had adopted a "my way or the highway" approach and was engaging in "reckless talk" about going over the cliff.

"This isn't a progress report because there is no progress to report," Boehner told reporters at the Capitol. "The president has adopted a deliberate strategy to slow walk our economy right to the edge of the fiscal cliff."

Obama has insisted that tax cuts set to expire on December 31 be extended for middle-class taxpayers, but not for the wealthiest Americans. Boehner and Republicans oppose his plan to raise tax rates for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans, preferring to find new revenues by closing loopholes and reducing deductions.

Boehner characterized as "reckless talk" Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner's comment this week that the administration was prepared to go over the cliff if tax rates for the rich were not increased.

The downbeat assessment was in line with what Boehner has offered for weeks as the two sides hold their ground on Obama's call for raising tax rates and Republican calls for cuts in entitlements like the Medicare and Medicaid healthcare programs for the elderly and the poor.

Capitol Hill aides said the budget talks would be limited to Boehner and Obama and their staffs as the deadline approached, but Boehner said a telephone call between two on Wednesday and renewed staff talks on Thursday had not made progress.

"The phone call was pleasant, but it was just more of the same. Even the conversations the staff had yesterday were just more of the same. It's time for the president, if he's serious, to come back to us with a counter-offer," Boehner said.   Continued...

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) speaks to the media outside his office on Capitol Hill in Washington, December 7, 2012. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas