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Boehner: ‘We’re Nowhere’ on Fiscal Cliff

House Speaker John Boehner. File photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

With House Speaker John Boehner and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner both digging in their heels on the Sunday talk shows, there was no sign of give in the stalemate over the year-end fiscal cliff.

“Right now, I would say we’re nowhere, period. We’re nowhere,” Boehner said during an appearance on “Fox News Sunday.”

For his part, Geithner said Republicans could easily break the deadlock if they backed off their opposition to raising taxes on the top 2 percent of wage earners.

“There’s no path to an agreement that does not involve Republicans acknowledging that rates have to go up for the wealthiest Americans,” Geithner said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

The dueling appearances by the top Republican in Congress and the Obama administration’s point man in the negotiations came three days after the two men had a face-to-face meeting on Capitol Hill and with less than a month to go before a combination of automatic spending reductions and tax increases take effect.

Fox’s Chris Wallace asked Boehner for his reaction to the opening offer put forward by Geithner last Thursday.

“I was flabbergasted. I looked him and said, ‘You can’t be serious.’ I’ve just never seen anything like it,” Boehner said. “You know, we’ve got seven weeks between Election Day and the end of the year. And three of those weeks have been wasted with this nonsense.”

The speaker also seemed to suggest the administration had dealt the talks a setback with its initial proposal. “We’ve put a serious offer on the table by putting revenues up there to try to get this question resolved. But the White House has responded with virtually nothing,” Boehner said. “They’ve actually asked for more revenue than they have been asking for the whole entire time.”

Geithner told “Face the Nation” host Bob Schieffer that the administration has crunched the numbers and sees no way around increasing rates on families making more than $250,000 a year.

“We’ve taken a careful look at this, and we think we should limit deductions. But if you look carefully at how to do this, there is no way to raise a meaningful amount of revenue relative to the size of our fiscal challenges by just limiting the value of deductions for the wealthiest Americans,” Geithner said. “You can raise a lot of money if you’re prepared to raise taxes significantly on middle class families by limiting their deductions, but we don’t think that makes a lot of sense for them.”

Geithner also pushed back on GOP criticism that the administration had not included serious and specific cuts in entitlement spending as part of its overall package.

Geithner said the administration’s plan contains “detailed reforms to entitlements” totaling $600 billion over 10 years. He noted that the savings “build gradually over time because they’re phased in carefully.”

Boehner and Geithner also differed sharply over the administration’s demand to essentially do away with Congress’ authority to lift the country’s borrowing limit.

“Congress is never going to give up this power,” Boehner contended. “I’ve made it clear to the president, that every time we get to the debt limit, we need to cut some reforms that are greater than the increase in the debt limit. It’s the only way to leverage the political process to produce more change than what it would if left alone.”

Geithner pointed to last summer’s debt ceiling talks, calling them “very damaging,” and said the administration was “not prepared to let the threat of default on America’s credit…be held hostage to the political agenda of a group of people in Congress.”

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle chimed in with their assessments of where the talks stand and prospects for reaching an agreement before the end of the year.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said House Republicans remain the barrier to compromise.

“I think we can get a deal through the Senate,” McCaskill said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “The question is I feel almost sorry for John Boehner. There is incredible pressure on him from a base of his party that is unreasonable about this. And he’s got to decide, is his speakership more important or is the country more important.”

Appearing alongside McCaskill, Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., placed blame squarely on President Obama. “I would say that Speaker Boehner’s biggest problem is not his base. It’s having a willing partner on the other side that’s really willing to look at these kinds of reforms,” Corker said. “I think the speaker is frustrated right now because as you’ve mentioned, the White House keeps spiking the ball on — on tax increases for the wealthy but has not yet been forthcoming on real entitlement reform. And without the two, there really is no deal.”

Corker is one of a handful of Republican lawmakers who’ve expressed a willingness to raise revenues as part of a deal, as has South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham.

But Graham told CBS on Sunday that his optimism about an agreement had waned after the administration’s opening salvo.

“I think we’re going over the cliff,” Graham said. “It’s pretty clear to me they made a political calculation. This offer doesn’t remotely deal with entitlement reform in a way to save Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security from imminent bankruptcy. It raises $1.6 trillion on job creators that will destroy the economy and there are no spending controls.”

The NewsHour looked at where the discussion stood Friday, with Boehner calling the negotiations a stalemate and Mr. Obama rallying public support at the K’Nex factory in Pennsylvania.

Watch the segment here or below:


  • On Friday, NewsHour congressional correspondent Kwame Holman reported on the fight over reforming Senate rules. Democrats are pushing to limit the use of the filibuster while Republicans are crying foul, arguing that the procedural tactic is key to protecting the rights of the minority party.

You can watch the piece here or below:

  • We’ve posted Sens. Tom Coburn and Tom Harkin’s extended interviews on filibuster reform here.

  • Also on Friday’s program, Mark Shields and David Brooks talked with Jeffrey Brown about the fiscal cliff, filibuster reform and the fallout from U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice’s meetings on Capitol Hill.

Geithner’s tactics are a “chest-thumping stick in the eye to the Republicans,” Brooks said.

“All the migration suddenly stops, and suddenly they get outraged,” he added. “And so they are back — they are going back to where Grover Norquist wants them to be, because they are outraged because they feel they have been insulted. They feel this is not a negotiation, this is a war.”

Shields has a more toned-down assessment and sees a welcome contrast with the president’s past negotiation style.

You can watch the segment here or below:

  • Mark and David also discussed consumption taxes and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the regular Friday feature the Doubleheader with Hari Sreenivasan.

  • NewsHour production assistant Alex Bruns looks at the various players of the ongoing fiscal discussions in this blog post from Friday.


  • The Huffington Post’s Peter Stone reports that conservative mega-donor Sheldon Adelson may have spent nearly $150 million on the election.

  • Politico reports on a survey of Mr. Obama’s supporters, who are split on how the president should fix the deficit.

  • A post-election Mitt Romney is a subdued Romney indeed. The Washington Post’s Philip Rucker drops in on the former presidential candidate’s new life as a private citizen with incredible detail.

  • As Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., works on drafting a new budget, the GOP seem to have left behind Romney’s campaign proposal for repealing Medicare cuts, write Sam Baker and Elise Viebeck of The Hill.

  • Republican Rep. Candice Miller of Michigan will be the 113th Congress’ only female committee chair, Boehner announced Friday. She will oversee the House Administration Committee.

  • Freshmen congressional members have picked their offices through the lively tradition of the lottery drawing.

  • Monday’s tidbit from NewsHour partner Face the Facts USA looks at passenger-rail service Amtrak:

Ridership has steadily increased over the past decade, from 21.8 million back in 2001, to more than 30 million in 2011. It also receives hundreds of millions of dollars each year in federal subsidies. Yet Amtrak consistently operates in the red, losing about $1 billion each year.

  • The Baltimore Sun’s Annie Linskey tallies the cost to taxpayers of the many out-of-state trips of Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, the outgoing Democratic Governors Association chairman. She also looks at what’s next for him.

  • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo will visit Washington, D.C., Monday to lobby for billions of dollars in federal assistance for Hurricane Sandy relief efforts.

  • House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., answers a question about reforming STEM education on question-and-answer website Quora.

  • The nine justices of the Supreme Court discussed Friday whether they will hear any of 10 cases involving same-sex marriage this term. Reporters and same-sex and traditional marriage advocates now look for the court to announce as early as Monday morning.

  • The Supreme Court recently has heard a growing number of copyright, trademark and patent cases.

  • Former President George H.W. Bush remains hospitalized in Texas to recover from bronchitis.

  • A tree exploded Friday on the National Mall because of art.


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