Boehner challenges Obama, Democrats to act on 'fiscal cliff'

Taking a page from President Obama's playbook, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Saturday argued that Democrats, not Republicans, need to bring a "responsible solution" to the negotiating table in order to avoid the so-called "fiscal cliff" at the end of the year.

While Obama has put the onus to act on Republicans in Congress, Boehner argued in the weekly GOP address that Republicans have already put everything they reasonably can on the table, and warned that "unless President Obama and Congress take action, tax rates will go up on every American on Jan. 1."

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Obama left for Hawaii, where he will spend Christmas with his family, on Friday night, but admonished Congress that he would be back in town on Wednesday, determined to reach a deal before the end of the year. Obama and Boehner are locked in a stand-off over key aspects of negotiations both to extend current tax rates, which expire at the end of the year, and to replace the automatic, across-the-board spending cuts also triggered on Jan. 1.

“Unfortunately, the president and Senate Democrats have vowed to reject and veto all of our proposals while failing to offer a responsible solution of their own," according to Boehner.

“The House has done its part," Boehner asserted, referring to legislation that has been passed in the House but not taken up by the Senate. The House earlier this year passed legislation that would extend all current tax rates, which has been the Republicans' goal in ongoing negotiations. Obama and the Democrats want tax rates to go up on individuals making more than $250,000 a year.

Boehner tried again this week with "Plan B" legislation that failed to achieve bipartisan support. Democrats rejected Boehner's plan to ensure that tax rates did not go up on individuals with an income under one million dollars, and Boehner ultimately killed the bill because he did not have enough votes from within his caucus.

"I don’t want tax rates to go up. Republicans don’t want tax rates to go up," Boehner said. "The best way to address our crippling debt is to make significant spending cuts and fix our tax code to pave the way for long-term growth and opportunity. This is an approach most Americans support, and it remains Republicans’ highest priority. But we only run the House. Democrats run Washington."

Boehner's speech is a strong rebuttal to the blame Democrats have heaped on Republicans as being too "extreme" to negotiate. Boehner argued that Obama needs to "challenge the members of his party to deal honestly with entitlement reform and the big issues facing our nation."

Boehner made it clear in the address that, despite pressure to make further concessions, he is holding his ground.

“The American people re-elected President Obama on Election Day. They also re-elected a Republican majority in the House," he said, confronting rhetoric by opponents who say Boehner needs to bow to the will of the majority of American people who elected a president that campaigned on higher taxes for the wealthiest Americans.

"In doing so, they gave us all a mandate," he continued. "It was not a mandate to raise tax rates on families and small businesses. It was a mandate for us to work together to begin solving the massive debt that threatens our country’s future."

Boehner promised that he is still ready and willing to work with Congress and the White House to agree on a plan, because "hope springs eternal."

“For now, I wish all the American people a blessed and Merry Christmas," he added. 

The House and Senate are in recess until after Christmas.