The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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November 29, 2012

Obama, Republicans start verbal battle on fiscal cliff


Senate Democrats insisted that it's up to Republicans to offer a specific roster of spending cuts.

"Republicans know where we stand," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. "We're still waiting for a serious offer from Republicans."

Reid said there is strong public support for Obama's proposal to extend all expiring tax cuts except for those that apply to incomes over $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for couples — legislation that Boehner and other Republicans say would harm the economy rather than help it.

The private meetings and public statements marked an acceleration in the pace of bargaining, if not in movement toward an agreement on an issue that leaders of both parties say they want to resolve.

The speaker has said that Republicans are willing to endorse higher tax revenues as part of a deal to prevent across-the-board tax increases and spending cuts scheduled to take effect at year's end, but only if the agreement includes savings taken from Medicare and other government benefit programs.

Boehner spoke by phone with Obama Wednesday night, and said his remarks Thursday were the result of that conversation, as well as the session with Geithner.

Carney said Obama's telephone call with Boehner lasted 28 minutes. He characterized it "frank and direct" and a good conversation.

Obama is insisting that tax rates go up on family income exceeding $250,000; Boehner is adamant that any new tax revenues come from overhauling the tax code, clearing out tax breaks and lowering rates for all.

The White House has been dismissive of Republicans suggestions that they can raise enough tax revenue by limiting deductions, saying that alone would not generate the amount of money Obama wants in revenue.

A White House document being shared with congressional officials and Obama allies says that placing a $25,000 limit on deductions would generate about $650 billion over 10 years if phased in gradually, and only $450 billion if charitable deductions were excluded from the limit, as some have suggested. Obama is aiming for $1 trillion in budget savings by letting estate taxes and the rates for the top 2 percent of earners rise to Clinton-era levels.

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