Monday, 10 December 2012 09:41
WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama and House of Representatives speaker John Boehner met Sunday to discuss the so-called impending fiscal cliff of steep tax hikes and spending cuts.
No details of the talks were given, but a statement from Boehner's office said "the lines of communication remain open." And White House spokesman Josh Earnest said, word for word, the same thing, also refusing to go into details.
The fact that the two sides avoided a chance to put dueling spins on the talks stood in contrast to the more hostile tone that has pervaded the showdown in recent days.
Boehner said Friday he could report "no progress" in deficit talks. He accused the White House of recklessly pushing the country to the fiscal brink over tax hikes.
The last time the two leaders had spoken was Wednesday, by telephone.
The so-called fiscal cliff refers to a combination of severe tax increases and spending cuts due to kick in automatically in January if the president and Congress don't find a compromise plan to cut the deficit first.
Economists warn that careening over the fiscal cliff would throw the country back into a recession.
Obama sent Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to Capitol Hill last week with an opening gambit, proposing $1.6 trillion in new tax revenues over the next decade, mainly from higher tax rates on the wealthiest two percent of Americans.
A Republican counter-offer included a plan for $800 billion in tax revenue raised through closing loopholes and ending some deductions. Both plans have been rejected.
In his weekly address Saturday, Obama said he was willing to find ways to reduce health costs and make more entitlement spending cuts as sought by the Republicans.
But he said asking "the wealthiest Americans to pay higher tax rates -- that's one principle I won't compromise on."
Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2012