By Russell Berman - 11/09/12 05:04 PM EST
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Friday said President Obama has an “opportunity to lead” on the fiscal cliff — and refused to offer more specific Republican ideas on how to avert the mandatory spending cuts and expiring tax rates that are looming in the new year.
But when asked to provide details, Boehner kept his cards close to his vest.
“I would really rather not do that because I don’t want to limit the options that would be available to me or the options that might be available to the White House,” Boehner said in a press conference at the Capitol. “There are a lot of ways to get there, and I don’t want to preclude anyone who might have a good idea of how we move forward.”
Boehner also made one of his first comments on the next debt ceiling increase, which is expected to be required by early next year. “It is an issue that is going to have to be addressed, sooner rather than later," he said.
Boehner and Americans across the country got their first inkling of what Obama wants to see in a budget deal when the president made a statement at the White House — his first public remarks since his victory speech early Wednesday morning.
Obama said Congress should act to reduce the deficit in “a balanced and responsible way” by extending the current tax rates for 98 percent of Americans, but raising taxes on households with annual income over $250,000.
Obama did not talk about higher tax rates in his speech. But the president said he would not accept a deal that cut spending and entitlements without asking wealthier households to pay more taxes.
“If we’re serious about reducing the deficit, we have to combine spending cuts with revenue and that means asking the wealthiest Americans to pay a little more in taxes,” Obama said. “That’s how we did it in the 1990’s when Bill Clinton was president, that’s how we can reduce the deficit while still making the investments we need to build a strong middle class and a strong economy.”
The House has passed legislation to replace the scheduled cuts to the Defense Department and domestic programs, as well as to extend all current income and business tax rates for one year.
But Obama has been adamant that tax rates for the wealthy should rise, and he is expected to reiterate that position on Friday.
“This is an opportunity for the president to lead,” Boehner said. “This is his moment to engage the Congress and work toward a solution that can pass both chambers.”
Boehner's comments came as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) pushed back against suggestions by Democratic leaders that the GOP was prepared to compromise on its opposition to raising taxes.
“One issue I’ve never been conflicted about is taxes,” McConnell said in a statement released to Breitbart News. “I wasn’t sent to Washington to raise anybody’s taxes to pay for more wasteful spending, and this election doesn’t change my principles."
McConnell added: “I know some people out there think Tuesday’s results mean Republicans in Washington are now going to roll over and agree to Democrat demands that we hike tax rates before the end of the year. I’m here to tell them there is no truth to that notion whatsoever.”
Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), the Senate Democrats’ chief political strategist, had told reporters Thursday that he thought McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) would agree to raise taxes as part of a deficit-reduction deal.
— Amie Parnes and Alexander Bolton contributed to this story. Updated at 2:05 p.m.