WASHINGTON -- Republican leaders kicked off Wednesday with a fierce critique of President Obama's handling of “fiscal cliff” negotiations, part of the political posturing on both sides that has characterized efforts to avoid across-the-board tax hikes and spending cuts before a January deadline.
House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), who has been engaged in face-to-face meetings and phone calls with Obama since last weekend, dismissed the president's latest proposals as unbalanced.
“As of today, the president's plan to avert the fiscal cliff still does not meet the two standards that I laid out the day after the election,” Boehner told a news conference. “His plan does not fulfill his promise to bring a balanced approach to solving this problem. It's mainly tax hikes.”
Boehner described his latest phone call Tuesday with the president as “frank,” and said they had exchanged proposals. But he provided no details and it’s unclear if they are edging closer to an agreement.
Still, Boehner said he remains “the most optimistic person in this town.”
“We are going to begin to solve our debt problem – and we are not going to be able to solve it by kicking the can down the road,” Boehner said. He said that the Republican plan doesn't rely on “gimmicks.”
Boehner was echoed by other leading Republicans, including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who said the White House's plan “has always been about tax rate increases, and not about spending.”
Emerging after a closed-door session, Republicans appeared fired up to fight through the holidays.
Cantor said the House will return after Christmas and push through to New Year's Eve to stop George W. Bush-era income tax rates, which expire Dec. 31, from automatically rising on Jan. 1. Obama wants the rates to rise only for the wealthiest 2% of households.
The latest White House plan, updated on Monday, promises to raise $1.4 trillion in new revenue chiefly from higher taxes on couples who earn more than $250,000 a year, and individuals who earn more than $200,000, along with $400 billion in spending cuts drawn largely from Medicare.
Boehner said Wednesday that offer “won't pass the House.” He said any agreement must forgo higher taxes and include deeper spending cuts.