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November 29, 2012

Obama, Republicans start verbal battle on fiscal cliff

House Speaker John Boehner met with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner on Thursday and accused Democrats afterward of failing to outline specific cuts to avert the "fiscal cliff" that threatens to send the economy into recession.

The White House and other Democrats said the Republicans were the ones holding things up.

"No substantive progress has been made between the White House and the House" in the past two weeks, Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters after the private meeting with Geithner at the Capitol.

"I was hopeful we'd see a specific plan for cutting spending, and we sought to find out today what the president really is willing to do," Boehner said.

Top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell of Kentucky also offered a pessimistic take following his separate meeting with Geithner.

"To date, the administration has remained focused on raising taxes and attending campaign-style events, with no specific plans to protect Medicare and Social Security or reduce our national debt in a meaningful way," McConnell said in a statement. "And today, they took a step backward, moving away from consensus and significantly closer to the cliff."

At the White House, Obama spokesman Jay Carney took a confrontational tone at his daily briefing, saying Republicans must accept the reality that tax rates for the top 2 percent of income earners are going to go up, as President Barack Obama has demanded.

"This should not be news to anyone on Capitol Hill," Carney said. "It is certainly not news to anyone in America who was not in a coma during the campaign season."

"There can be no deal without rates on top earners going up," he declared.

To Boehner's criticism that Obama has not detailed a cost-cutting plan, Carney held up a copy of the president's plan from September 2011, noting that it was available online and on Capitol Hill. He said, "I believe they have electricity and Internet connections."

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