White House, GOP blame each other over stalled fiscal-cliff talks

WASHINGTON — Dueling on separate Sunday talk shows, House Speaker John A. Boehner said he was “flabbergasted” by the Obama administration’s latest proposal to avoid the fiscal cliff, while Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner said Republicans were in a “difficult place” and had to make more concessions.

Boehner, an Ohio Republican, told “Fox News Sunday” that when Geithner outlined the administration’s proposal for him on Thursday, he looked at Geithner and said: “You can’t be serious.”

Geithner told ABC’s “This Week” that, although the two sides were “still some distance apart,” tax rates would have to go up for the wealthiest 2% of Americans. “That’s an essential part of any deal,” he said.

Under the administration’s proposal, tax deductions and exclusions for wealthy people also would be limited.

QUIZ: How much do you know about the fiscal cliff?

The White House proposal calls for about $1.6 trillion in additional revenue over the next 10 years, $600 billion in spending reductions and $200 billion in additional spending for unemployment insurance, mortgage relief and public works projects to stimulate the economy.

Another administration aim is to have Congress virtually relinquish authority over future increases in the debt limit. But Boehner said it was “silly” to think that Congress would give up that power.

If Congress fails to act, next year would begin with a series of tax hikes and spending cuts, the combination of which economists believe would jeopardize the economy.

Boehner said he had made concessions by announcing after the election that Republicans were willing to take a look at additional revenues. But he said increasing taxes on top earners would hurt small businesses and slow economic growth.

He also said he was determined to curb spending and solve the country’s debt problem.

When asked for an assessment of where things stood, Boehner said, “We’re nowhere. Period.”

“The president’s idea of the negotiation is ‘Roll over and do what I ask,’ ” said Boehner, who added that he believed there was “clearly a chance” of going over the fiscal cliff.

But Geithner, who made the rounds on several Sunday shows, said the ball was now in the Republicans’ court. “They understand that,” he added. When they come back with a new proposal, he said the administration would take a look.

He said a certain amount of “political theater” was inevitable and added: “We’re actually making a little bit of progress, but we’re still some distance apart.”

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