Pelosi: Boehner's criticism on fiscal talks 'a tactic,' ignores facts

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) pushed back hard Thursday against Republican claims that President Obama and the Democrats have failed to offer specific cuts as part of the "fiscal cliff" talks.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said earlier in the day that there's been “no substantive progress” on a bipartisan deal this month, accusing Democrats of failing to propose a "serious" plan for cutting deficit spending.

ADVERTISEMENT
But Pelosi, reelected Thursday to lead her party in the next Congress, said Democrats already supported more than $1 trillion in spending cuts as part of last year's debt-ceiling deal, and are prepared to back more.

"We don't agree on a set of facts," Pelosi said, reacting to Boehner's remarks during a press conference in the Cannon House Office building on Capitol Hill. "We are not only saying that we support spending cuts, we have voted for over $1 trillion [in cuts]. ... So we are on the record as doing that. It simply is not a fact that we are not supporting the cuts."

Appearing beside Pelosi, Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) piled on.

"Democrats have voted for over $1 trillion in cuts," he said. "We have demonstrated our willingness to do what needs to be done and to compromise on these issues."

Clyburn, the third-ranking House Democrat, who will keep that spot next year, noted that Obama, running on a platform that emphasized an income-tax hike on the wealthy, was reelected with a popular-vote advantage that topped 3 million votes. That result, Clyburn added, validates the approach Obama has taken to the talks on the impending spending cuts and tax hikes set to hit in January.

Boehner churned headlines Thursday morning when he emerged from a meeting with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to accuse the White House of not taking the fiscal cliff talks seriously.

“Despite claims that the president supports a balanced approach, the Democrats have yet to get serious about real spending cuts,” Boehner said. “No substantive progress has been made in the talks between the White House and the House in the last two weeks."

Pelosi said she hadn't heard Boehner's remarks, but dismissed the notion that Democrats want tax hikes without new spending cuts. She characterized his criticisms as a political "tactic." 

"I didn't hear what he said, but if he said we're not being serious about cuts, we voted for them, we know they're necessary," she said.

Behind Obama, the Democrats are urging Boehner and House Republicans to take up a Senate-passed bill that would extend the Bush-era tax benefits for all incomes below $250,000 a year.

"Let's move forward where we agree," said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), the senior Democrat on the House Budget Committee who was elected Thursday to keep that seat.

GOP leaders have rejected that option, fearing that they'd lose leverage in their fight over whether to extend the lower rates to annual incomes above $250,000. That issue has emerged as the central sticking point of the fiscal cliff talks, with both sides refusing to give ground Thursday.

"We’re insisting on keeping tax rates where they are, first and foremost, to protect jobs and because we don’t think government needs the money in the first place,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on the chamber floor.

The White House fired back quickly.

“There can be no deal without rates on top earners going up,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney. “This should not be news to anyone who was not in a coma during campaign season."

Pelosi compared the current debate to the partisan showdown over a payroll tax holiday, when GOP leaders, facing increasing political pressure, ultimately caved to Obama's demands to extend that break through 2012. The California liberal predicted a similar scenario would play out regarding the Bush tax rates.

"The president was calling for it, the Senate voted for it, House Democrats wanted it, Republicans isolated themselves and painted themselves, really, in a corner, and then they had to come around," she said of the payroll tax fight.

"I think they'll come around."