The White House and Congressional Republicans continued their rhetorical standoff Sunday as top officials dug in on their established policy positions and shrugged their shoulders at the idea of letting tax cuts expire Jan. 1.
Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, who granted interviews to five news programs, and Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, who spoke with Fox News, acknowledged that negotiations have reached an impasse and that going over the fiscal cliff of expiring tax breaks and scheduled discretionary spending cuts is possible.
Lawmakers have about three weeks before they intend to gavel the 112th Congress to a close and 29 days until the cuts are slated to begin.
“They’ve got to tell us what they’re willing to do on rates and revenues. That’s going to be very hard for Republicans, and we understand that, but there’s no way through this without that,” Geithner told “Fox News Sunday.” “And they have to tell us on the spending side, if they want to go beyond where we are, they have to tell us what makes sense to them. What we can’t do ... is try to figure out what works for them.”
“There’s a huge amount at stake,” Geithner told ABC News. “There’s just no reason why 98 percent of Americans have to see their taxes go up because some members of Congress on the Republican side want to block tax rate increases for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans,” he continued, before adding that the combination of tax increases and spending cuts “would be very damaging to everyday Americans, but there’s no reason it has to happen.”
Geithner met with top congressional leaders in four closed-door sessions Thursday on Capitol Hill to make a provisional offer to key players on behalf of the White House. The meetings occurred just one day before President Barack Obama traveled to Pennsylvania to frame the current debate in a way Geithner tried to reinforce Sunday — that if negotiators go over the fiscal cliff, it will be because the GOP was unwilling to approve tax cut extensions for 98 percent of Americans without ensuring that rates on families with incomes of more than $250,000 also remain unchanged.
Geithner’s offer, made Thursday and discussed further Sunday, was a framework that included $1.6 trillion in revenue, raising the estate tax to 2009 levels, increased spending on a multihundred billion dollar stimulus, beginning with $50 billion in 2013 and a permanent change in how the debt limit is increased that would make it easier for the president to extend the government’s borrowing capacity without congressional approval.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.