White House Dismisses GOP Plan on Fiscal Cliff

BY Terence Burlij and Katelyn Polantz  December 4, 2012 at 8:54 AM EST

President Obama; photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Obama. File photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

Four days after having its initial offer to avert the year-end fiscal cliff rejected by House Republicans, the Obama administration got to return the favor Monday when GOP lawmakers put forward a plan with $800 billion in fresh revenues but does not raise tax rates on wealthier Americans.

The Republican package, submitted by House Speaker John Boehner and other top Republicans, also included $600 billion in cuts to federal health programs, achieved by increasing the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67 and reducing benefits for more affluent elderly Americans.

GOP leaders called the blueprint “exactly the kind of imperfect but fair middle ground that allows us to avert the fiscal cliff without hurting our economy and destroying jobs.”

But the Obama administration’s take was far more critical. “The Republican letter released today does not meet the test of balance. In fact, it actually promises to lower rates for the wealthy and sticks the middle class with the bill,” White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer said in a statement. “Until the Republicans in Congress are willing to get serious about asking the wealthiest to pay slightly higher tax rates, we won’t be able to achieve a significant, balanced approach to reduce our deficit.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said in a statement that “simple math dictates that tax rates must rise” on families earning more than $250,000 a year. “The sooner Republicans grasp that reality, the sooner we can avoid the fiscal cliff,” Reid said.

House Republicans contended their framework resembled a plan put forward last year by Erskine Bowles, the Democrat who co-chaired President Obama’s bipartisan deficit reduction commission with former GOP Sen. Alan Simpson.

Bowles said in a statement that he was “flattered” Republicans would name their pitch after him but added that their offer did not represent his plan.

“Every offer put forward brings us closer to a deal, but to reach an agreement, it will be necessary for both sides to move beyond their opening positions and reach agreement on a comprehensive plan which avoids the fiscal cliff and puts the debt on a clear downward path relative to the economy,” Bowles said.

Bowles also spoke with Gwen Ifill on Monday, shortly after the news broke of a Republican counter-proposal.

Watch the segment here or below:


The former chief of staff to President Clinton said that the dueling plans were all part of the negotiating game. “That’s just a Kabuki theater you go through at each one of these,” Bowles said.

To reach an agreement, Bowles said both sides would need to give on items where they have currently dug in their heels. “I am positive that to get a deal done, you’re going to have to have higher tax rates on the top 2 percent. I’m equally sure that $350 billion worth of cuts that the president put on the table for health care entitlements is not going to be sufficient to get the deal done. There’s going to have to be some compromise,” he said.

With their offer immediately swatted aside, House Republicans charged the onus for coming up with a compromise was now back on Mr. Obama. “Republicans have once again offered a responsible, balanced plan to avoid the fiscal cliff, and the White House has once again demonstrated how unreasonable it has become,” Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck said in a statement. “If the president is rejecting this middle ground offer, it is now his obligation to present a plan that can pass both chambers of Congress.”

LINE ITEMS

  • New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg asked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to run for his seat in 2013, The New York Times scoops.

  • The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward writes that Fox News chairman Roger Ailes courted former CIA director David Petraeus to run for president — and News Corp.’s Rupert Murdoch may have, too.

  • Sens. John McCain and John Kerry had a bit of fun at each others’ expense during a Monday news conference for a disabilities treaty. McCain introduced the Massachusetts Democrat as “Mr. Secretary,” poking fun at Kerry’s interest in the secretary of state post. Kerry got even when he took the microphone back from the Arizona Republican and quipped, “Thank you very much, Mr. President.”

  • On Monday, President Obama answered questions on Twitter with the now-infamous #My2K. Read the best of the live chat compiled by The Daily Beast.

  • Tuesday’s tidbit from NewsHour partner Face the Facts USA looks at joblessness and race.

  • David Corn and Andy Kroll at Mother Jones report that former GOP House Majority Leader Dick Armey has resigned as chairman of FreedomWorks.

  • Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, R-Mo., will leave Congress to lead the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, her biggest campaign donor.

  • Retiring Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., remembers how he told colleagues he was gay.

  • Rick Santorum found a job writing columns for a conservative website.

  • What’s next for @PaulRyanVP and its more than half a million followers? Politico’s Ginger Gibson asks what can be done with Twitter accounts from dead campaigns.

  • New Jersey GOP Gov. Chris Christie will visit Capitol Hill on Thursday to ask for Hurricane Sandy cleanup funding.

  • The Washington Post has another election post-mortem, focused on insights from the Obama team and how its polling was more accurate than Mitt Romney’s.

  • The Supreme Court again on Monday did not announce if it will hear any cases on same-sex marriage this term. The court will discuss the cases again on Friday in private and could announce if they’ll take the cases as soon as Friday afternoon.

  • NBC’s “Park and Recreation” bumped into Newt Gingrich while filming in Indianapolis; watch for him in an upcoming episode.

  • “The world will not end on any day in 2012,” the U.S. government says.

  • “The Daily Show” lampoons the filibuster rules in the Senate, with a NewsHour cameo at 3:09.

NEWSHOUR ROUNDUP

  • Chicago schools are trying a curriculum called the Common Core State Standards to help struggling students. Elizabeth Brackett of public television station WTTW reports.

  • Five states will lengthen the school day. NewsHour’s Kelly Chen has an FAQ.

  • The NewsHour recently debuted “Lunch in the Lab,” a regular online feature that rounds up the week’s science news.

  • A new case study from Boston University that examines brains of former football players and others found that repetitive hits to the head may cause as much long-term degenerative damage as the hard hits. But some, including the NFL, are skeptical. Jeffrey Brown explores the study in this discussion.

TOP TWEETS

Jessica Fink contributed to this report.

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Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.

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