Deficit negotiations resume between Boehner's office and White House

Staff-level fiscal talks are taking place Monday between Speaker John Boehner’s office and the White House, according to the Speaker’s office.

Boehner spokesman Michael Steel would not provide details of the talks, but he said the $2.2 trillion deficit-reduction offer Republicans presented to the White House a week ago “remains the Republican offer.”

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“Discussions with the White House are taking place, but we have no detail to share about the substance of those conversations,” Steel told The Hill. “The Republican offer made last week remains the Republican offer, and we continue to wait for the president to identify the spending cuts he’s willing to make as part of the ‘balanced’ approach he promised the American people.”

The staff talks come a day after Boehner (R-Ohio) and President Obama held a face-to-face meeting to try to avert the tax hikes and spending cuts scheduled for January, which economists argue could trigger a recession.

The GOP proposal included $800 billion in new tax revenue, but Boehner remains opposed to Obama’s chief demand — that tax rates go up on family incomes above $250,000 a year.

The meeting between Obama and Boehner at the White House on Sunday was their first since the president hosted top congressional leaders for talks on the "fiscal cliff" on Nov. 16. They have spoken several times on the phone since then, but as of Friday, the Speaker said those negotiations had yielded little progress.

The talks have restarted after essentially breaking off for several days while the two sides rejected dueling offers.

“The president does believe that we can reach an agreement,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters Monday aboard Air Force One.

Like Boehner’s spokesman, Carney wouldn’t provide details of the meeting between the two men.

While Republicans continue to demand specificity from Democrats on spending cuts, Carney said the White House had yet to see the same from the GOP on taxes.

“What we haven’t seen yet is any specificity at all from Republicans on revenue,” he said. “We’ve seen a sentence on revenue. And while there has been encouraging statements from individual lawmakers about the realization that rates will go up on the top two percent, we haven’t seen anything specific from Republicans with regard to that.”

Carney reiterated Obama’s position that any deal “requires acceptance and acknowledgement in a concrete way by Republicans that the top two percent will see an increase in their rates.” 

Congress has until the end of the year to pass legislation preventing major tax increases and spending cuts that will begin taking effect in January. Leaders in both parties have said they want to complete a deal before Christmas, when Congress is scheduled to adjourn.

Beyond that, neither side has put a timetable on the talks.

"The sooner we reach an agreement, the better,” Carney said.

Congress has until the end of the year to pass legislation preventing major tax increases and spending cuts that will begin taking effect in January.

Obama is in Michigan on Monday for the latest stop in his bid to increase public pressure on Republicans to pass an extension of tax rates for the middle class while allowing taxes on the wealthy to rise.

This story was updated at 1:16 p.m.

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