By Pete Kasperowicz - 12/11/12 05:32 PM EST
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Tuesday challenged Republicans to clarify what tax increases they can agree to, just moments after House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) called on Democrats to propose specific spending cuts.
Pelosi said the biggest challenge in the fiscal cliff talks is to ensure the middle class is not hurt by tax increases or cuts to needed government services. But she said Republicans have focused only on spending cuts and have ignored the idea of higher taxes.
Pelosi said a start is allowing rates on high-income earners to increase, but she said Republicans are refusing to pass legislation that would extend the current middle-class tax rates while allowing other rates to rise.
"What stands in the way is an act on the part of Republican majority to bring a middle-class tax cut to the floor of the House," Pelosi said.
On spending cuts, Pelosi said Democrats have already agreed to make cuts, both in the 2010 healthcare law and in other bills supported by Democrats in Congress and the Obama administration.
"The fact is that the president has — and Democrats agree with him — agreed to ... around $1.6 trillion in cuts, in the Budget Control Act and other acts of Congress," she said. "Where are the cuts? They're in bills that you, Mr. Speaker, have voted for."
Republicans have repeatedly charged Democrats with wanting to count past savings and spending cuts toward a new agreement to avoid the fiscal cliff. Instead, they say much tougher cuts are needed to help control the deficit.
Pelosi said that some agreement is needed to avoid the fiscal cliff and warned that dire economic consequences would follow if one isn't reached.
"It is not a time to inject even more uncertainty into the lives of the American people and the economy of our country and what that means globally," she said. "It simply isn't the time. Many of these ideas are bad at any time, but they're particularly harmful at this time."