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Cliff Walk: Now the Three-Way Dance Begins

Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo
A group of conservative GOP lawmakers said Wednesday that it would oppose raising revenue in a deal to avert the fiscal cliff, despite President Barack Obama ’s pitch for $1.6 trillion in new tax revenue.

President Barack Obama’s pitch for $1.6 trillion in new tax revenue from the wealthy has Republican leaders demanding major entitlement cuts even as they face the potential for a revolt among conservatives.

A defiant group of conservative GOP lawmakers said Wednesday that it would oppose raising revenue in a deal to avert the fiscal cliff unless it came from economic growth.

So any deal will likely come from the unknown quantity of Republicans in both chambers who have expressed a willingness to negotiate — and they’re demanding steep cuts to Medicare and other entitlements.

Obama reiterated his demand for higher tax revenue on the wealthy at his first post-election press conference Wednesday, claiming a mandate to help the middle class while also saying he was prepared to make the tough decisions on trimming entitlement programs.

“I want a big deal. I want a comprehensive deal,” he said ahead of talks Friday with congressional leaders on resolving the fiscal cliff.

But he expressed skepticism about GOP proposals to find new revenue without raising tax rates on people making more than $250,000.

“It’s very difficult to see how you make up that trillion dollars ... just by closing loopholes and deductions,” Obama said.

He also rejected the idea of using dynamic scoring — assuming faster growth from lower rates — and said he didn’t want to be caught down the line in a situation where the wealthy escape paying higher taxes and the middle class loses out.

Still, Obama said he would be willing to listen to what Republicans offer Friday.

“I’m not going to just slam the door in their face,” he said, adding that he was “very eager” to do tax reform to make the code more efficient.

Obama’s remarks didn’t immediately signal detente with the GOP.

Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp dismissed the president’s demand to let the tax cuts for the wealthy expire.

“We don’t have time to waste on offers that are going nowhere,” the Michigan Republican said, suggesting broad tax reform as the solution.

Republicans also repeatedly demanded the president put forward a specific plan to deal with the entitlements in the long term — something he has not done so far.

“Additional revenue should be tied to the only thing that will save the country in the long run, and that is reforming entitlements,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said.

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