Boehner, Obama meet amid optimism on ‘fiscal cliff’

WASHINGTON - House Speaker John A. Boehner returned to the White House on Monday morning, meeting with President Obama as talks continue over the year-end budget crisis.

Boehner made a substantial shift over the weekend by offering to raise tax rates on those making more than $1 million a year, a significant change from Republican orthodoxy against higher tax rates. Aides described it as an optimistic overture, even though the White House did not accept the proposal.


“The president and the speaker are meeting at the White House to continue their discussions about the fiscal cliff and balanced deficit reduction,” said identical statements from the speaker’s office and the White House.

The 45-minute meeting ended by noon.

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Monday had been scheduled to be the start of the holiday season for Congress, with the House planning to be in recess. Instead lawmakers are returning to Washington the week before Christmas as negotiations continue.

By proposing the rate hike on the super wealthy, Boehner can be seen as offering a substantial compromise toward Obama, even though the offer falls short of the president’s preferred approach. Obama wants to raise rates on those earning less than that -- $250,000 for couples or $200,000 for singles. All tax rates will rise in the new year if no agreement is reached.

At the same time, the spending cuts Boehner would extract in exchange for the new tax revenue would likely be severe -- changes to Medicare, Medicaid and other social safety net reductions that Democrats would resist.

While the meeting was a hopeful sign of continued dialogue, as one aide put it, many details remain before a large-scale deficit reduction deal is in sight.

Congress and the White House are trying to replace $500 billion in automatic tax hikes and spending cuts, scheduled for the new year, with a broader budget deal to reduce the nation’s deficits.

Michael A. Memoli contributed to this report.

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