By Russell Berman - 07/07/11 02:47 PM EDT
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Thursday that comprehensive tax reform is “under discussion,” but he reiterated the GOP’s blanket opposition to tax increases ahead of a White House meeting on a long-term deal to reduce the federal debt.
“Everything is on the table except raising taxes on the American people,” Boehner told reporters at the Capitol after meeting with the House Republican conference.
According to sources in the GOP conference meeting, Boehner seemed optimistic that a deal could be struck in the near future.
"[The Speaker's] communicating that there is a possibility that something big could happen soon," a high-ranking GOP official told The Hill.
After the meeting, Boehner was asked if striking a deal that includes an overhaul of the tax code was possible before the Aug. 2 deadline that the Treasury Department has set for raising the $14.3 trillion federal debt limit.
“We believe that comprehensive tax reform both on the corporate side and on the personal side would make America more competitive, help create jobs in our country and is something that is under discussion,” Boehner said.
Boehner acknowledged that he has held private conversations with the president in recent weeks, but said “there is no agreement.”
The New York Times reported Wednesday that Boehner has signaled a willingness to accept up to $1 trillion in new revenues as part of a broad agreement. Boehner did not specifically shoot down the report, but he and a group of other GOP leaders stepped to the microphone to reject tax hikes.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said Wednesday Republicans would discuss closing tax loopholes but that any deal on taxes must be revenue-neutral, meaning it does not add to the bottom-line tax burden for individuals or businesses. He said on Thursday that the White House meeting marked “the beginning of the final stage of the discussion” on deficit reduction and raising the debt ceiling.
Obama said he wants an agreement by the end of next week.
Freshman Rep. Charlie Bass (R-N.H.) said Boehner did not divulge new details on the debt talks at the GOP conference meeting. “He’s playing his cards pretty close to his chest,” Bass told The Hill.
—This story was updated at 10:47 a.m.