clear
Thursday July 30th, 2015 12:11PM

Boehner on averting fiscal cliff: 'God only knows'

By The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) -- House Speaker John Boehner signaled on Friday he's still open to negotiations with President Barack Obama on avoiding across-the-board tax increases set to hit taxpayers Jan. 1, but sounded pessimistic about reaching a grand deal with the president.

"How we get there, God only knows," Boehner told a Capitol Hill news conference just hours after his rank-and-file handed him a stunning tactical defeat.

The Republican leader spoke the morning after he was forced by his members to abandon legislation that would have raised taxes on incomes above $1 million. "We didn't have the votes to pass it," Boehner said glumly.

In the aftermath, Boehner said any deal with the president to avoid the looming "fiscal cliff" would require more compromise by Obama and greater involvement of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and the minority leader, Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

"I'm interested in solving the major problems that face our country," Boehner said. "And that means House leaders, Senate leaders and the president are going to continue to have to work together to address those concerns."

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., who stood by Boehner's side, said, "We stand ready to continue in dialogue with this president to actually fix the problem."

Boehner dismissed suggestions that the embarrassment late Thursday night over the legislation would cost him his speakership, second in line to the presidency.

"While we may have not been able to get the votes last night to avert 99.81 percent of the tax increases, I don't think - they weren't taking that out on me," he said. "They were dealing with the perception that somebody might accuse them of raising taxes."

Obama has said he will press ahead with Congress in search of a deal and that the two sides are relatively close to a long-sought budget bargain. But Boehner on Friday depicted an impasse.

"I told the president on Monday these were my bottom lines," Boehner said. "The president told me that his numbers - the $1.3 trillion in new revenues, $850 billion in spending cuts - was his bottom line, that he couldn't go any further." Boehner and the White House differ on how to classify key elements of Obama's latest offer, particularly whether to count interest savings on the national debt as a spending cut. The White House says Obama offered $1.2 trillion in spending cuts, matched by $1.2 trillion in higher taxes.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said on Thursday that Obama has "never said either in private or in public that this was his final offer. He understands that to reach a deal it would require some further negotiation. There is not much further he could go, because after all, unlike his counterparts in this negotiation, he has already gone halfway on both sides of the equation."

Boehner's attempt to retreat from a longstanding promise to maintain Bush-era tax rates for all was designed to gain at least some leverage against Obama and Senate Democrats in the fiscal cliff endgame. Thursday's drama was a major personal defeat for the speaker, who retains the respect and affection of his tea party-infused conference, but sometimes has great difficulty getting them to follow his leadership.

What Boehner called his "Plan B" was crafted to prevent tax increases set to kick in Jan. 1 on virtually every taxpayer. But it also would have provisions that would have let rates rise for those at the upper income range - a violation of long-standing Republican orthodoxy that triggered opposition inside the party.

The hope was that successful House action on the measure would force Senate Democrats to respond. But Reid made clear that Plan B would have been dead on arrival in the Senate.

The latest events leave little time for Obama and bruised lawmakers to prevent across-the-board tax increases and deep spending cuts from taking effect with the new year. Economists say the combination threatens a return to recession for an economy that has been recovering slowly from the last one.

The House will not meet again until after Christmas, if then, and the Senate is expected to meet briefly on Friday, then not reconvene until next Thursday.

In arguing for legislation with a million-dollar threshold for higher tax rates, Boehner said the president has called for protecting 98 percent of people from a tax increase. His bill would "protect 99.81 percent of the American people from an increase in taxes."

A companion bill that was meant to build GOP support for the tax legislation called for elimination of an estimated $97 billion in cuts to the Pentagon and certain domestic programs over a decade. It cleared the House on a partisan vote of 215-209 and is an updated version of legislation that passed a little more than six months ago.

Those cuts would be replaced with savings totaling $314 billion, achieved through increases in the amount federal employees contribute toward their pensions and through cuts in social programs such as food stamps and the health care law that Obama signed earlier in his term.

Earlier in the week, Boehner and Obama had significantly narrowed their differences on a compromise to avoid the fiscal cliff.

But Republican officials said members of the GOP leadership had balked at the terms that were emerging. Democrats said Boehner's abrupt decision to shift to his Plan B - legislation drafted unilaterally by Republicans - reflected a calculation that he lacked support from his own members to win the votes needed for the type of agreement he was negotiating with the president.

By any measure, the two bills in the House were far removed from the latest offers that officials said Obama and Boehner had tendered. The two men don't seem to be that far apart.

Obama is now seeking $1.2 trillion in higher tax revenue, down from the $1.6 trillion he initially sought. He also has softened his demand for higher tax rates on household incomes so they would apply to incomes over $400,000 instead of the $250,000 he cited during his successful campaign for a new term.

He also has offered more than $800 billion in spending cuts over a decade, half of it from Medicare and Medicaid, $200 billion from farm and other benefit programs, $100 billion from defense and $100 billion from a broad swath of government accounts ranging from parks to transportation to education. In a key concession to Republicans, the president also has agreed to slow the rise in cost-of-living increases in Social Security and other benefit programs, at a savings estimated at about $130 billion over a decade.

By contrast, Boehner's most recent offer allowed for about $940 billion in higher taxes over a decade, with higher rates for annual incomes over $1 million.

© Copyright 2015 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Doctors: Blood clot located in Clinton's head
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton developed a blood clot in her head but did not suffer a stroke or neurological damage, her doctors said Monday. They say they are confident that she will make a full recovery.
3:55PM ( 2 years ago )
Illinois Sen. Kirk to return a year after stroke
Nearly a year after a stroke left him barely able to move the left side of his body, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk is expected to climb the 45 steps to the Senate's front door this week - a walk that's significant not just for Illinois' junior senator, but also for medical researchers and hundreds of thousands of stroke patients.
3:54PM ( 2 years ago )
U.S. News
Ga. ethics legislation could end free tickets
General Assembly approval next year of a proposed ethics reform measure could endanger an important fall tradition for Georgia lawmakers - free football tickets.
6:26PM ( 2 years ago )
Abortion restrictions, tax changes loom in Ga.
Tax breaks for manufacturers and higher unemployment taxes for employers take effect with the new year in Georgia, but it remains to be seen whether the state's newest abortion restrictions will be enforced.
6:23PM ( 2 years ago )
Business News
Couch names administrative team
Ahead of his scheduled swearing in Friday, Hall County Sheriff-elect Gerald Couch named his top administrative team Monday.
6:28PM ( 2 years ago )
Tech beats Southern California in Sun Bowl
Tevin Washington threw a touchdown pass and ran for another score to help Georgia Tech beat Southern California 21-7 on Monday in the Sun Bowl.
5:54PM ( 2 years ago )
Hall Co. officials launch health-based initiative for employees
Hall County officials believe healthy county employees will be of greater service to the county. With that in mind, they have created a health-based fitness initiative to provide free fitness training for county workers.
5:46PM ( 2 years ago )
Local/State News
Maine same-sex couples marry in first hours of law
After waiting years and seeing marriage rights nearly awarded and then retracted, gay couples in Maine's largest city didn't have to wait a moment longer than necessary to wed, with licenses issued at the stroke of midnight Friday as a new state law went into effect.
8:02AM ( 2 years ago )
Fresh fighting in C. African Republic; US leaves
Renewed fighting between government forces and rebels seeking to overthrow the president broke out Friday in Central African Republic's third largest city, a military official said, hours after the U.S. ambassador and his team were evacuated from the capital.
3:18PM ( 2 years ago )
White House meeting a last stab at a fiscal deal
A planned Friday afternoon meeting among congressional leaders and the president - their first since Nov. 16 - stands as a make-or-break moment for negotiations to avoid across-the-board first of the year tax increases and deep spending cuts - the fiscal cliff.
8:06AM ( 2 years ago )
Politics
Afghan Taliban confirm Mullah Omar's death, choose successor
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghanistan's Taliban on Thursday confirmed the death of Mullah Mohammad Omar, who led the group's self-styled Islamic emirate in the 1990s, sheltered al-Qaida through the 9/...
11:27AM ( 44 minutes ago )
Hope for miracle dims but search goes on for missing boys
TEQUESTA, Fla. (AP) — Families hoped for a miracle even as science nagged that one was improbable and rescue crews went into a seventh day of searches Thursday for two teens missing at sea.Though it s...
10:18AM ( 1 hour ago )
On Capitol Hill, GOP fighting itself instead of Democrats
When Republicans took full control of Congress this year, they were determined to show voters they could govern responsibly. Instead they've been tearing each other apart in extraordinarily public displays - to the delight of Democrats.
9:50AM ( 2 hours ago )
Applications for US jobless aid rise to still-low 267,000
WASHINGTON (AP) — More people sought U.S. unemployment benefits last week, though the increase was from a very low level and the figures still point to a healthy job market.Applications for jobless ai...
8:48AM ( 3 hours ago )
Virginia's Gilmore makes 17 GOP presidential candidates
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Republican presidential contest has grown to 17 candidates with Wednesday's entry of Jim Gilmore.The former Virginia governor told The Associated Press earlier this month that he...
5:04AM ( 7 hours ago )