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President Barack Obama calls on GOP to do their job regarding fiscal cliff

1:35 PM, Dec 19, 2012   |    comments
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WASHINGTON -- President Obama said Wednesday he and House Republicans led by Speaker John Boehner are separated by "probably a few hundred billion dollars" on the fiscal cliff talks, while expressing frustration that they have been unable to hatch a deal yet on the looming fiscal cliff.

"Any objective person ... would say we've put forward a very balanced plan," the president told reporters on Wednesday. He added, "Right now what the country needs is for us to compromise."

The comments came soon after the White House announced that Obama would veto a proposed GOP bill that would raise tax rates for Americans making more than $1 million if it reaches his desk.

Boehner floated his so-called "Plan B" legislation on Tuesday to avert tax hikes for most Americans set to go into effect at the beginning of next year.

The president said he remains open to negotiations and eager to hatch a deal before Christmas. But he also expressed frustration that Republicans seem intent on blocking him for political reasons and insisted that he's gone at least halfway in negotiations.

"I am going to continue to talk to the Speaker (and House Republicans) but ultimately it's up to them to do their job," Obama said.

Before his remarks Wednesday, White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer said the Republican Plan B was unbalanced and promised that the president would veto it if it made it to his desk.

Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Boehner, called the veto threat "bizarre and irrational."

"Republicans have always said a broader, 'balanced' plan is the ideal solution, and we have put one forward," Buck said. "In the absence of a 'balanced' solution from the president, however, we must act to stop taxes from rising across the board in 12 days."

The latest back-and-forth comes as negotiations on tax rates and the looming "fiscal cliff" appear to have slowed, if not ground to a halt.

Senior administration officials said discussion about a major agreement have virtually stopped since Boehner proposed his Plan B, despite the fact it has virtually no chance of passing the Senate. They noted that Obama submitted a plan to the speaker on Monday, and they are awaiting a response.

The White House says the Boehner plan would give millionaires a tax break of $50,000. The plan also would result in unemployment assistance being cut off for some 2 million Americans who have been taking advantage of extended benefits. Obama added that the Boehner plan "violates the core principles" he debated during the campaign season.

The veto threat is not unexpected. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said on Tuesday that the Democratic-controlled Senate would not consider Boehner's plan and White House spokesman Jay Carney said it did little to address long-term fiscal challenges.

Obama's latest proposal included extending George W. Bush era rates - set to expire on Jan. 1 - for couples making $400,000 or less, a change from his campaign pledge to allow those rates to expire on those making more than $250,000. The Obama offer also included $1.2 trillion in spending cuts over the next decade. Boehner rejected that offer, saying a significant portion of the cuts came through budgetary gimmicks.

"Obama has put forward a proposal that meets the speaker halfway on both taxes and spending, offering to work with Republicans to cut spending by ... more than $1 trillion beyond what he has already signed into law," Pfeiffer said. "The president urges the Republican leadership to work with us to resolve remaining differences and find a reasonable solution to this situation today instead of engaging in political exercises that increase the possibility that taxes go up on every American."

An economic analysis prepared by the White House also concludes that the Boehner plan would actually benefit many millionaires because of favorable provisions on estate taxes, personal exemptions and itemized deductions. The administration said the plan would provide an average of $50,000 in tax benefits for people who make more than $1 million, when compared with the plan Obama has proposed.

Many middle class families, meanwhile, would see tax bills rise as much as $1,000 under the Boehner plan. It ends tax breaks that benefit the middle class, including the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit.

Overall, the administration said Plan B would raise only about $300 billion from high-income households, less than a third of what Boehner proposed in his last offer to Obama.

Republicans may move forward with a pair of votes on Thursday, one to maintain existing tax rates for those earning less than $250,000 per year and the Boehner alternative.

"The notion that that the Speaker wants to run a play that keeps tax cuts for folks making....$900,000 a year and gives more tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires...and then has no cuts in it doesn't make much sense," Obama said. "They're thinking about raising taxes for those making over a million which they say they don't want to to do, but they are going to reject spending cuts they do want to do. That defies logic."

Officials said the president is scheduled to leave for his end-of-the-year vacation in Hawaii on Friday, but he will stay in Washington if fiscal cliff issues are left hanging.

USA Today

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