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, with both men expressing
frustration that they have been unable to forge a deal.
sharpened their rhetoric Wednesday, suggesting they may be at
loggerheads with hundreds of billions in tax increase and budget cuts
set to be triggered in 12 days.
"Any objective person ... would
say we've put forward a very balanced plan," the president told
reporters Wednesday. He added: "It is very hard for (GOP lawmakers) to
say yes to me. But at some point, they've got to take me out of it and
think about their voters, and think about what's best for the country."
president's 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.
floated his so-called "Plan B" legislation Tuesday to avert tax hikes
for most Americans set to go into effect at the beginning of next year.
Boehner said in brief comments to reporters Wednesday that he would bring his plan up for a vote Thursday.
the House will pass legislation to make permanent tax relief for nearly
every American 99.81% of the American people," Boehner said. "Then
the president will have a decision to make. He can call on Senate
Democrats to pass that bill or he can be responsible for the largest tax
increase in American history."
The president said he remains open to negotiations and eager to reach
a deal before Christmas. But he also expressed frustration that
Republicans seem intent on blocking him for political reasons and
insisted that he has gone at least halfway in negotiations.
going to continue to talk to the Speaker (and House Republicans) but
ultimately it's up to them to do their job," Obama said.
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."
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.
officials said discussions 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 Monday, and they are awaiting a
The White House says the Boehner plan would give
millionaires a tax break of $50,000 each. The plan also would result in
unemployment assistance being cut off for about 2 million Americans who
have been receiving extended benefits. Obama added that the Boehner plan
"violates the core principles" he debated during the campaign season.
veto threat is not unexpected. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said
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 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.
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.
sidestepped a question on whether he betrayed positions he took on the
campaign trail as he's negotiated a deficit cutting plan including his
position that only those making above $250,000 should pay more in taxes
and a resistance to reducing social security benefits
said is, is that in order to arrive at a compromise, I am prepared to do
some very tough things -- some things that some Democrats don't want to
see and probably there are a few Republicans who don't want to see
either," Obama said.
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
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.
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
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.