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Cliff Talks Send Parties Back to Old Corners

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call
Boehner’s meeting with White House officials on the fiscal cliff Thursday did not go well, and he later questioned the president’s willingness to reach a deal.

Adding to the drama was Geithner’s list of demands, which included $1.6 trillion in revenue and a request to give the president the power to raise the debt limit without Congress’ approval. To reach the revenue target, Geithner asked for $960 billion in immediate increases to the top tax rates and capital gains and dividends, an additional $600 billion in tax increases, a return to the 2009 level estate tax and a multiyear stimulus package starting with $50 billion in 2013, according to another GOP leadership aide.

McConnell appeared incredulous about Geithner’s proposal. He said the $1.6 trillion in revenue and the debt limit proposal constituted “highly irresponsible talk” and said the White House efforts Thursday were not what he “would consider ... serious.”

“We have signaled on numerous occasions ... that we’re willing to put more revenue on the table, we’re willing to take it from upper income people,” McConnell said, referring to the GOP revenue offer in 2011’s failed supercommittee debate.

McConnell emphasized that the GOP wants to see a good faith effort from Democrats on entitlements. This has been an emerging line of attack from Republicans, who have been on the defensive since the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction’s failure to reach agreement was pinned to revenue and not reforms of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

Earlier in the day, Reid was asked about the lack of conversation on entitlements — and Boehner’s remarks that the ball was in Democrats’ court to offer up a plan — to which the majority leader responded that he didn’t understand the speaker’s “brain.”

Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., acknowledged that the relationship between Boehner and Obama right now is “not good.”

Boehner, he said, is “in a corner. The president has basically said to him, OK, we told you what we want, now produce what you want.”

Still, talk of tension between the White House and the House is nothing new. Even Democrats have at times complained that the administration treats them with a cool distance.

Rep. James Lankford, R-Okla., who will lead the Republican Policy Committee in the 113th Congress, said there has long been a feeling among Republicans that the White House is not trustworthy.

“There’s a trust issue with the House,” Lankford said. “This White House has been very distant from the legislative branch and has tried to do everything beyond arm’s length. It works a lot better if we’re actually developing relationships and I haven’t seen that.”

Of course, Democrats have countered that the relationship was also damaged when the House voted to go back on 2011’s spending cap agreement and institute a lower spending limit for fiscal 2013.

Still, a senior White House official downplayed the tensions, reinforcing Obama’s position that Republicans should agree to allow taxes to increase on those making more than $250,000 annually before progress can be made.

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