By Russell Berman - 12/07/12 04:24 PM EST
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) accused the White House Friday of trying to “slow-walk” the fiscal-cliff negotiations.
Boehner said there was “no progress” in the talks just three weeks before tax hikes and spending cuts are set to kick in and expressed frustration that President Obama hasn’t made a counteroffer to the GOP’s proposal of $800 billion in new tax revenue as part of a $2.2 trillion deficit-reduction plan.
“This isn’t a progress report, because there’s no progress to report,” Boehner said in a brief press conference at the Capitol.
Boehner spoke to Obama by phone on Wednesday, and their staffs talked on Thursday.
“The phone call was pleasant, but it was more of the same,” he said.
The chief sticking point remains the president’s insistence that tax rates rise for the wealthy, which Republicans continue to oppose on the grounds that it will hurt job creation more than raising revenue through other means.
“Nothing is going to be possible if the president insists on his position,” Boehner said, characterizing Obama’s stance as “my way or the highway.”
When the Speaker was asked whether Republicans could accept an increase in the tax rate for the wealthy that fell short of the 39.6 percent rate desired by Democrats, he did not explicitly rule it out. Shortly after the election, he said raising rates would be “unacceptable.”
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Democrats say it is the GOP standing in the way of progress by blocking legislation that would extend current tax rates on family incomes up to $250,000 a year.
“Why are we not here to pass the middle-income tax cut?” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) asked in her own Capitol news conference about an hour after Boehner spoke. “Why are we not here to even debate the middle-income tax cut?"
Pelosi mocked the House schedule kept by Republicans, who cut short this week’s session and sent members back to their districts on Wednesday because they had no legislation ready to pass.
Pelosi has launched a discharge petition to force the middle-class tax bill to the floor, but thus far no Republicans have signed it.
She declined to say whether Democrats could accept a compromise on the top tax rate, such as 37 percent instead of the current 35 percent. “It’s not about the rate. It’s about the money,” she said, referring to the amount of revenue a compromise would generate for the Treasury.
Pelosi on Friday met with Obama at the White House "on a number of issues," a congressional official said.
Boehner said Republicans had taken a step toward the president since the election by offering new revenue, but he said the move had not been reciprocated by engagement from the Democrats on spending cuts and entitlement reforms.
“When is he going to take a step toward us?” the Speaker asked.
Boehner also criticized a comment by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who said in a television interview Wednesday that the White House was “absolutely” prepared to go over the year-end cliff if the Republicans did not agree to raise tax rates.
"I think that's reckless talk," Boehner said.
Both Boehner and Pelosi agreed on one thing: Time is running out.
“This is a moment of truth,” Pelosi said. “The clock is ticking. Christmas is coming. The goose is getting fat.”
—This post was updated at 12:44 p.m.