Speaker of the House John Boehner walks to the podium to hold a news conference… (Michael Reynolds / EPA )
WASHINGTON – House Speaker John A. Boehner’s counteroffer in “fiscal cliff” talks ran into resistance Tuesday from the Republican Party’s right flank, which dismissed the proposal as giving too much ground to President Obama on tax hikes and spending priorities.
The conservative Heritage Foundation’s economists called the GOP offer “a dud,” and a top legislative counsel at FreedomWorks, the tea party umbrella group, said his organization was “underwhelmed.”
Boehner (R-Ohio) sought to advance the talks this week by proposing what his allies characterized as a “fair middle ground,” which included half as much new revenue as Obama wants and nearly three times the spending cuts. The White House dismissed the effort as unbalanced.
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Obama and Congress are working to avoid the year-end crisis of automatic tax hikes and spending cuts that could crater the economy if no agreement is reached.
Obama wants to allow tax rates for upper-income earners to expire, raising the top rate from 35% to 39.6%, a position Republicans reject. Without a deal, tax rates will rise across the board, resulting in a $2,200 tax hike on the average American family in the new year.
Both sides claim they have a mandate from the November election, when voters not only returned the president to the White House, but also kept Republicans in control of the House.
The conservative wing of the GOP wants less tax revenue and deeper spending cuts, even though Boehner specifically avoided offering the austerity budget from Rep. Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), who was Mitt Romney’s vice presidential running mate.
“The Republican counteroffer, to the extent it can be interpreted from the hazy details now available, is a dud,” wrote the Heritage economists. “It is utterly unacceptable. It is bad policy, bad economics, and, if we may say so, highly questionable as a negotiating tactic.”
Rank-and-file Republicans in both the House and Senate offered a more muted response to a proposal many clearly dislike, as they seek to give Boehner the backing he needs to negotiate.
“I think it’s important that the House Republican leadership is trying to move the process forward,” said Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader.
To be sure, Democrats have divisions among their ranks on the proposal put forward by the White House, which includes several tax provisions that are unacceptable to the president’s allies on the Hill.
But both sides are trying to corral their dissenters to show a unified front and shift the blame as negotiations drag.
No talks are scheduled this week, as each waits for the other to make another offer.
[For the record, 5:33 p.m. Dec. 4: An earlier version of this post incorrectly reported that Sarah Palin warned Republicans not to embrace Boehner’s fiscal cliff offer. Palin’s warning to Republicans not to “go wobbly on us” was in reference to the removal of several conservative members from their committee assignments after they had compiled a record of bucking the House GOP leadership.]
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