"Fiscal Cliff" Clock Ticks, Political Battle Rages
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Last week began with high hopes of "fiscal cliff" deal-making but ended with the reality that both sides are galaxies apart. Now the negotiations enter another time-sensitive week, and with few illusions as to where each side stands. The talks are going to have to move a great deal before a compromise can be reached.
This week, negotiations are expected to continue behind the scenes between the White House and Republican leaders. In addition, President Obama has a meeting scheduled Tuesday with several governors -- including Govs. Scott Walker, R-Wisc., and John Hickenlooper, D-Colo. -- as well as a speech on Wednesday to the Business Roundtable where he will focus on selling his side of the debate, a task that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner was charged with on the Sunday political shows.
The public posturing picked up on Sunday television where it left off at the end of last week, with politicians attempting to sell their sides of the story while evading any semblance of willingness to budge on their respective stances. And time is running out. There is less than a month before a series of automatic spending cuts and tax increases are set to go into effect, which economists predict will be devastating for the economy.
In his appearances on all five networks' Sunday political shows, Geithner laid out the White House's position, just as he did during meetings on Capitol Hill last week.
"There's no path to an agreement that does not involve Republicans acknowledging that rates have to go up for the wealthiest Americans," Geithner said on CBS News' "Face the Nation."
For the Republicans, House Speaker John Boehner defended his offer, which he called serious, and flatly rejected President Obama's proposal. "We've put a serious offer on the table by putting revenues up there to try to get this question resolved. But the White House has responded with virtually nothing. They've actually asked for more revenue than they have been asking for the whole entire time," Boehner said.
As far apart as Geithner and Boehner are, those are the current parameters: the GOP wants to extend all of the Bush-era tax cuts, which expire at the end of the year; the president wants to extend all but the cut for those making more than $250,000. In addition, the president's proposal would increase the estate tax to 45 percent. It's a plan that would total $1.6 trillion over 10 years, the White House says.
"The president is asking for $1.6 trillion worth of new revenue over 10 years, twice as much as he has been asking for in public," Boehner said Sunday. "It was not a serious offer."
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., took the same position as Boehner and other Republicans who oppose increases to tax rates but are open to generating new revenue by limiting tax deductions. "I'll only do that if we do entitlement reform, and the president's plan when it comes to entitlement reform is just, quite frankly a joke," Graham, R-S.C., said on "Face the Nation."