By Molly K. Hooper - 12/02/12 03:06 PM EST
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said he was “flabbergasted” with the White House’s initial proposal to avoid the so-called “fiscal cliff.”
The Ohio Republican said he told Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner “you can’t be serious,” when the lead White House negotiator presented the plan to GOP congressional leaders last week.
He called the administration proposal that included $1.6 trillion in tax increases, $400 billion in unspecified tax cuts and a bevy of additional stimulus spending, “nonsense.”
Three weeks have been “wasted with this nonsense,” Boehner said, referring to the time that passed since voters reelected President Obama and a GOP-controlled House of Representatives.
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With only 30 days until current Bush-era tax rates are set to expire, coupled with billions of automatic cuts in federal spending, economic experts believe that the U.S. economy could take a major hit if politicians don’t reach a deficit-reduction package by Jan. 1.
Boehner says, however, that he is worried now that Congress and the White House won’t be able to avoid falling off the cliff, charging the White House with proposing more in new spending than they have offered in upfront cuts to GOP leaders.
The White House “has responded with virtually nothing, they’ve actually asked for more revenue than they’ve been asking for the whole time,” Boehner said.
“At the end of the year, they wanted to extend unemployment benefits, they wanted a new stimulus program for infrastructure, they wanted to extend some other tax breaks and all of this new stimulus spending would literally be more than the spending cuts that he was willing to put on the table,” Boehner added.
Secretary Geithner was nonplussed when responding to Boehner's shocked reaction to the White House proposal.
Geithner told Wallace, "[GOP leaders] are in a tough position now, they are trying to figure out where they go next, we might need to give them a little time to figure out where they go next."
Geithner defended the initial White House deficit plan, during a blitz of Sunday morning talk show appearances.
“It's a very good plan and we think it's a good basis for these conversations,” said Geithner on CNN's "State of the Union." “What we did is put forward a very comprehensive, very carefully designed mix of savings and tax rates to help us put us back on a path to stabilizing our debt, fixing our debt and living within our means.”
Geithner instead sought to put pressure on GOP lawmakers to accept tax rate increases on the wealthy. “There's not going to be an agreement without rates going up,” he said.
Republicans say they will accept new revenues in any deal but from closing loopholes and exemptions, not from tax rate rises, even on the wealthy. GOP leaders want to extend the expiring Bush-era rates across the board and say their openness on revenues should be matched by Democrats putting serious entitlement reform on the table.
Democrats, however, are insistent that any deal include raising rates on the top 2 percent of income earners, those families who make over $250,000 a year.
Geithner acknowledged Boehner's willingness to discuss ways to increase revenues but, said that they need to come back with a counter-proposal to the initial White House offer.
"You've heard them -- for the first time in two decades now -- acknowledge that they are willing to have revenues go up as part of a balanced plan. That's a good first step, but they are going to have to tell us what they are willing to do on rates and revenues," Geithner said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Boehner, however, said that the White House knows where the GOP would make cuts and how they would like to alter entitlement programs.
The Speaker pointed to the two House GOP budget proposals approved over the past two years and his conversations with the President last year during the debt-limit increase talks, [President Obama] “knows what we’re willing to do," he said.