Boehner unveils first offer in ‘fiscal cliff’ standoff

WASHINGTON -- The day after the election, House Speaker John A. Boehner made the first offer to avert the year-end “fiscal cliff,” telling President Obama that the Republican majority in the House was willing to work with the White House even as he stood by the core no-new-taxes pledge that has prevented a deal.

Boehner suggested temporarily extending current tax rates for all Americans, including those for the wealthy that Obama wants to expire on Dec. 31, while negotiations continue on a broader deal in 2013 that would reform the tax code and entitlement spending in a so-called grand bargain that has eluded leaders.

The Republican speaker from Ohio on Wednesday portrayed his Republican majority as trying to work with the administration once Congress returns for the lame-duck session next week. The gesture offered a way to distance the House GOP from its past hard-line positions that contributed to the cycle of gridlock and crisis that dominated the last Congress.

LIVE ANALYSIS: The Times breaks down election day


“We won’t solve the problem of our fiscal imbalance overnight, in the midst of a lame duck session of Congress. And we certainly won’t solve it by simply raising tax rates or taking a plunge off the fiscal cliff,” Boehner said Wednesday in the Capitol. “What we can do is avert the cliff in a manner that serves as a down payment on, and a catalyst for, major solutions, enacted in 2013, that begin to solve the problem.”

Democrats are likely to welcome the gesture -- while panning the substance -- of Boehner’s offer as more of the same proposals that Mitt Romney put forward in his failed presidential bid, budget changes that rely on economic growth to bring in revenue that were largely dismissed by tax experts as not penciling out.

Congress returns Tuesday for a short session before the year’s end. At that time, income tax rates established during the George W. Bush administration will expire, and Obama wants to allow top rates to rise, from 35% to 39.6%, on those with incomes greater than $250,000 for couples and $200,000 for singles. Under Boehner’s proposal, the massive spending cuts also coming in the new year would be temporarily halted.

PHOTOS: America goes to the polls

Boehner’s proposal would offer a short-term reprieve while negotiations continue into next year on a grand bargain that would reform the tax code, change federal spending on Medicare, Medicaid and other entitlements and reduce overall federal spending.

“There is no mandate for raising tax rates on the American people,” agreed Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia, the majority leader. “There is a mandate for avoiding the fiscal cliff.”

By getting out in front on the issue, Boehner also moved ahead of the president, challenging the White House to move next.

“We want you to succeed,” Boehner said. “Let’s challenge ourselves to find the common ground that has eluded us. Let’s rise above the dysfunction, and do the right thing together for our country in a bipartisan way.”

PHOTOS: President Obama’s past

Follow Politics Now on Twitter and Facebook

Twitter: @LisaMascaroinDC