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Obama Sticks to His Guns, But Congress Negotiations on Deficit Deal ‘Go Nowhere’

November 30, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT
President Barack Obama took to the road to promote his fiscal agenda, repeating his support for increased taxes on the wealthy. While Democrats in Washington supported the president's proposals, Congressional Republicans warned a deadlock is forming around bipartisan efforts to reach a deficit deal. Margaret Warner reports.

MARGARET WARNER: Washington’s clock ticked another day closer today to automatic tax hikes and spending cuts, the so-called fiscal cliff. The president took to the road, while Republicans warned there’s a deadlock in efforts to reach a deficit deal.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Now, of course, Santa delivers everywhere. I have been keeping my own naughty and nice lists for Washington.

MARGARET WARNER: The president chose a seasonal setting, a toy factory in Hatfield, Pennsylvania, and holiday imagery to press again for extending tax cuts for the middle class.

BARACK OBAMA: If Congress does nothing, every family in America will see their income taxes automatically go up on Jan. 1. I mean, I’m assuming that doesn’t sound too good to you. That’s sort of like the lump of coal you get for Christmas. That’s a Scrooge Christmas.

MARGARET WARNER: In Washington, Republicans portrayed the road trip as so much humbug, at a time, they said, when negotiations are going nowhere.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, R-Ohio: There’s a stalemate. Let’s not kid ourselves.

MARGARET WARNER: House Speaker John Boehner said Republicans remain willing to raise revenues, but not by raising tax rates. And he charged the White House isn’t negotiating in good faith.

JOHN BOEHNER: The day after the election, I said the Republican majority would accept new revenue as part of a balanced approach that includes real spending cuts and reforms. Now, the White House took three weeks to respond with any kind of a proposal, and much to my disappointment, it wasn’t a serious one.

MARGARET WARNER: That proposal was presented by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner yesterday to congressional leaders.

It was widely reported today that the White House offer called for $1.6 trillion in tax increases over 10 years, with higher rates on the wealthy, and more than $100 billion in new stimulus spending for the unemployed and struggling homeowners.

It also would permanently give the president the authority to raise the nation’s debt limit without congressional approval, unless two-thirds of lawmakers disapprove. Congressional leaders did agree to that step as a temporary provision in last year’s debt ceiling deal.

REP. ERIC CANTOR, R-Va.: I think that the proposal that was delivered here by Sec. Geithner to the speaker and me yesterday wasn’t a serious proposal.

MARGARET WARNER: House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and other Republicans protested today that the president has offered no concessions at all.

ERIC CANTOR: We remain in discussions. I know the speaker as well as I do not want to see us go to the fiscal cliff, but feel very strongly we have got to get serious here. We don’t want to increase tax rates. We’re not going to increase tax rates.

MARGARET WARNER: A White House spokesman shot back that Republicans ought not to be surprised that Mr. Obama is sticking to his guns. And congressional Democrats, like House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, welcomed the president’s plan.

REP. NANCY PELOSI, D-Calif.: Elections have consequences. The president campaigned. He made it very clear, he made it very clear that he was supporting a tax cut for the middle class, that he wanted the expiration of the tax cuts for the high end. And the American people know that debate. They voted for him.

MARGARET WARNER: Still, despite all the tough talk, reporter Todd Zwillich of WNYC and Public Radio International says there’s more movement behind the scenes than meets the eye.

TODD ZWILLICH, WNYC Radio: There does tend to be a pattern to how big negotiations like this go.

The fact that they haven’t reached an agreement yet doesn’t mean they won’t before Christmas, doesn’t mean they won’t before New Year’s. There is a value in doing some public posturing and trying to get the public and the media on your side in these negotiations.

The speaker may be right. It may be a stalemate right now. But that doesn’t mean that the stalemate can’t be broken.

MARGARET WARNER: There was no word on when negotiations between the president and Republicans will resume. Congress is headed home for the weekend with the fiscal cliff deadline now just one month away.