GOP's Boehner says Obama slow-walking cliff talks

By Donna Cassata

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 11 2012 11:32 a.m. MST

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio is pursued by reporters as he walks to the House floor to deliver remarks about negotiations with President Barack Obama on the fiscal cliff, Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Boehner said President Barack Obama is slow-walking talks to avoid the fiscal cliff, and hasn't outlined spending cuts he's willing to support as part of a compromise.

J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press

WASHINGTON — House Speaker John Boehner accused President Barack Obama on Tuesday of slow-walking negotiations to avoid the "fiscal cliff" and urged him to name specific cuts in government spending he would support as part of any compromise.

"Let's be honest. We're broke. The plan we offered is consistent with the president's call for a balanced approach," said the Ohio Republican, who has said he will accept higher tax revenue as part of a deal that also includes cuts in government benefit programs. "We're still waiting for the White House" to do the same.

The White House and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi countered the assertion within moments.

"The irony of this is that the White House offer had very specific cuts, the GOP counteroffer had almost none," tweeted the president's communications director, Dan Pfeiffer. White House aides circulated a summary pointing to more than $300 billion in proposed Medicare savings that are included in Obama's budget, as well as another $250 billion in non-health benefit programs.

There was no hint of progress in the flurry of public comments, although the rhetoric was kept relatively restrained, as if to avoid jeopardizing any negotiations that might be taking place.

In remarks on the House floor immediately after Boehner spoke, Pelosi also called on him and the Republican leadership to permit a vote on Obama's plan to extend expiring tax cuts for most Americans while letting them lapse at upper incomes. She predicted it would have "overwhelming support" — even in the GOP-controlled House.

The day's events underscored the difficulty confronting the White House and congressional leaders as they struggle to avert across-the-board tax increases and spending cuts in government programs that are scheduled to take effect at the turn of the year. Economists say the combination could send the economy into recession.

"The longer the White House slow-walks this process the closer our economy gets to the fiscal cliff," said Boehner.

Earlier, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell was somewhat more critical in remarks of his own.

"The president seems to think that if all he talks about are taxes, and that's all reporters write about, somehow the rest of us will magically forget that government spending is completely out of control and that he himself has been insisting on balance," he said on the Senate floor.

He highlighted several government programs as examples of what he said was wasteful spending.

"A few weeks ago, Senator (Tom) Coburn issued a study that showed taxpayers are funding Moroccan pottery classes, promoting shampoo and other beauty products for cats and dogs and a video game that allows them to relive prom night," McConnell said. "Get this: Taxpayers also just spent $325,000 on a robotic squirrel named RoboSquirrel."

The two sides have presented rival initial offers in the cliff negotiations.

Obama's plan would raise $1.6 trillion in revenue over 10 years, in part by raising tax rates on incomes over $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for couples. He has recommended $400 billion in spending cuts over a decade.

He also is seeking extension of the Social Security payroll tax cut due to expire on Jan. 1, a continuation in long-term unemployment benefits and steps to help hard-pressed homeowners and doctors who treat Medicare patients.

The White House summary noted that Obama last year signed legislation to cut more than $1 trillion from government programs over a decade, and was proposing $600 billion in additional savings from benefit programs.

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