"Fiscal Cliff" Clock Ticks, Political Battle Rages
The administration put forward a spending reduction proposal that is unacceptable to Republicans. In addition to $600 billion in cuts, which Geithner said includes minor changes to Medicare benefits for the wealthy in addition to reductions in farm subsidies, they pointed to $1 trillion of spending cuts Democrats agreed to support last year without any increases to revenue. Republicans laughed, literally.
"[T]hey wanted to extend unemployment benefits, they wanted a new stimulus program for infrastructure, they wanted to extend some other tax breaks," Boehner said of the White House's proposal. "And all of this stimulus spending would literally be more than the spending cuts that he was willing to put on the table."
Additionally, the White House wanted the ability to raise the debt ceiling without Congressional approval. "I've just never seen anything like it," Boehner added. "We're nowhere."
While the president's proposal -- minus a host of details regarding tax deductions and spending cuts -- is on the table, the Republicans' proposal is even more veiled. Geithner said Boehner needs to respond with an offer.
"[I]f they want to come back to us and say we'd like you to do this differently, do more of this, then they should lay that out for us," Geithner said.
When asked about specifics on "Fox News Sunday," including if he would propose eliminating the home mortgage deduction, Boehner told host Chris Wallace, "Listen, there are lots of ways to get out there. Now, I'm not going to debate his or negotiate with you."
As for spending cuts, Boehner, like the Democrats, looked to past Republican proposals. He said Republican ideas are laid out in the 2011 House budget drafted by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., which would make massive changes to Medicare and deep cuts to spending programs. It is a plan that did not get past the Senate.
Acknowledging the delicate dance that negotiators often plan when working to reach a deal, Geithner said he thinks a deal will be reached, but not before both sides play "a lot of political theater."
On CBS' "Face the Nation," economist Mark Zandi also sounded optimistic about both sides reaching a deal. "I think the political stars are aligned. The president has his legacy. He's a second-term president and I think he really wants to address this and I think the Republicans want to address it as well. So I think we'll get it together," he said.
Meanwhile, CBS News' political director John Dickerson pointed out the president feels like he is in a better position than Boehner. He won reelection running on raising tax rates on the wealthy and public polls suggest that Republicans would be blamed if a deal is not "You have Republicans trying to figure out their... place in the world," Dickerson said.
Despite the public gulf and the tough rhetoric from both sides, negotiations are still ongoing. And, as Zandi pointed out, the way this is all playing out shouldn't come as a surprise considering lawmakers are worrking with the politically-charged issues of taxes and entitlements while on a tight deadline.