WASHINGTON -- House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) broke the uneasy silence in “fiscal cliff’ negotiations Tuesday, taking to the House floor to refocus attention on the spending cuts Republicans are demanding from President Obama in exchange for new tax revenue in a year-end budget deal.
Boehner said he remained optimistic after his private meeting over the weekend with Obama at the White House, but took the unusual move of delivering floor comments after both sides had remained mum after their secretive session.
“Where are the president’s spending cuts?” Boehner said as the chamber opened Tuesday. “When is the president going to get serious?”
Boehner’s comments appeared to be an indication that he was unsatisfied that Sunday’s talks failed to produce the kind of counteroffer from the White House that Republicans have wanted. Both sides have put their initial proposals on the table, each dismissing the other’s as inadequate.
“The irony of this is that the White House offer had very specific cuts, the GOP counteroffer had almost none,” said White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer in a Twitter message.
Boehner and Obama are negotiating a year-end budget deal to avert $500 billion in automatic tax hikes and spending cuts that economists warn could derail the nation’s still-fragile economy.
Obama is pressing to prevent the tax hike for all but the wealthiest 2% of Americans, those couples earning more than $250,000, and singles earning $200,000; Republicans insist on no tax rate increases, not even for the wealthy.
Boehner has said his party would be willing to consider new tax revenue through an overhaul of the tax code, but in exchange Republicans want steep cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and the Social Security safety net.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), who has been pushing a bill from the Democratic-controlled Senate that would preserve the tax breaks for most Americans, took her own turn on the floor to pressure the speaker to allow the vote.
Michael A. Memoli and Melanie Mason contributed to this report.
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