Quotes of the day

posted at 10:11 pm on December 3, 2012 by Erika Johnsen

House Republicans sent a counterproposal to avert the “fiscal cliff” to the White House on Monday outlining a $4.6 trillion deficit reduction proposal without raising tax rates on the wealthiest Americans.

The proposal is based on a framework outlined last year by former Clinton White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles, who co-chaired President Obama’s debt commission, and included an increase in the eligibility age for Medicare benefits. Republicans did not offer specific language on raising the age in their proposal Monday, but Bowles has publicly supported raising the age to 67.Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, also discussed gradually raising the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67 during their unsuccessful talks on deficit reduction in 2011.

“What we’re putting forth is a credible plan that deserves serious consideration by the White House and I would hope that they would respond in a timely and responsible way,” Boehner told reporters.

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The White House on Monday dismissed a Republican counteroffer to avert the so-called fiscal cliff as failing to “meet the test of balance” by resisting higher tax rates for the wealthy, a point that remains a key hurdle in the impasse over spending and revenues.

Dan Pfeiffer, the White House communications director, said in a statement that what congressional Republicans had billed as a “good-faith effort” to move toward compromise contained “nothing new” and offered no specifics on how they’d achieve revenue targets included in the plan.

“Until the Republicans in Congress are willing to get serious about asking the wealthiest to pay slightly higher tax rates, we won’t be able to achieve a significant, balanced approach to reduce our deficit,” Pfeiffer said in the statement, released two hours after details of the GOP offer emerged.

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“While I’m flattered the Speaker would call something ‘the Bowles plan,’ the approach outlined in the letter Speaker Boehner sent to the President does not represent the Simpson-Bowles plan, nor is it the Bowles plan,” Bowles said in a statement released by the Moment of Truth Project. “In my testimony before the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, I simply took the mid-point of the public offers put forward during the negotiations to demonstrate where I thought a deal could be reached at that time. The Joint Select Committee failed to reach a deal, and circumstances have changed since then. It is up to negotiators to figure out where the middle ground is today.”

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House Speaker John Boehner is trying to call a mulligan. …

Bowles went on to outline what came to be known as the “Bowles plan.” Calling it a plan, though, is probably a bit generous: It was mostly an exercise in taking the Republican position and the Democratic position and dividing by two. …

… That’s the plan Boehner offered the White House on Monday. It’s progress. If you ignore the first nine paragraphs in his letter to President Obama — nine paragraphs in which he vents about the White House and rehashes the virtues of the Ryan budget — it’s a far more centrist proposal than anything Boehner has offered in public before now. But it’s essentially identical to what he offered in his talks with Obama, and to what Bowles offered Republicans during the supercommittee talks. Which is understandable. Those deals must be looking pretty good to Boehner about now.

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Republicans will cave on the question of raising the tax rate for the highest-income Americans. The only question is whether they do so before or after the government goes over the so-called fiscal cliff. …

The GOP moved an inch in that direction Monday. In a letter to President Obama, Speaker John Boehner and the House Republican leadership proposed $800 billion in new tax revenues, along with about $1.4 trillion in combined cuts to entitlements and discretionary spending. But the GOP still resisted any increase in tax rates, which they “continue to oppose and will not agree to.” …

Doing that would forestall the Democratic attack that the GOP will not bend on tax rates. Instead, it would be the president who’s not bending. Of course, Obama — and many in the media — would find other grounds to attack Republicans. But since the GOP is ultimately going to relent on the top tax rate, why not do it when it has some benefit?

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CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: I heard what the Congressman (van Hollen) said and it is clear they are (Democrats) not serious at all about entitlements. which, as the president himself said, that is where the money is. On Social Security he denied that there’s any effect on the deficit at all. …

It’s surprising to me that the president, essentially, who could get revenues he wants from the deductions and exclusions, but insists on rates not for economic reasons but political. He wants to break the backs of Republicans. This is a continuation of his campaign. He thinks he is won it and now he wants to drive a stake through the Republicans. It’s all about the politics; it’s nothing about the economics.

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It could be the most awkward office Christmas party of the year.

With partisan debate over the “fiscal cliff” becoming more acrimonious by the day, President Obama will play host tonight to House Speaker John Boehner and members of Congress for the season’s first White House holiday reception. …

There are no planned meetings this week between Obama, Boehner or other key figures in the “fiscal cliff” negotiations. The sweeping package of automatic, across-the-board tax hikes and deep spending cuts will take effect in 29 days unless both sides reach a deal.

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