Printed on: December 13, 2012
Talks over 'fiscal cliff' appear stalled
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Republicans aren't budging on tax rates, and Democrats are resisting steps like raising the eligibility age for Medicare. Negotiations on averting a year-end fiscal train wreck combining big automatic tax hikes and sweeping spending cuts again appear stalled.
There are less than three weeks before the government could careen off this "fiscal cliff," but the chief GOP negotiator, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Wednesday that "serious differences" remain between him and President Barack Obama after an exchange of offers and a pair of conversations this week.
Boehner spoke after a closed-door meeting with fellow GOP lawmakers in which he advised them not to make plans for the week after Christmas.
Neither side has given much ground, and his exchange of proposals with Obama seemed to generate hard feelings more than progress. The White House has slightly reduced its demands on taxes -- from $1.6 trillion over a decade to $1.4 trillion -- but isn't yielding on demands that rates rise for wealthier earners.
Boehner responded with an offer very much like one he gave the White House more than a week ago that offered $800 billion in new revenue, half of Obama's demand. Boehner is also pressing for an increase in the Medicare eligibility age and a stingier cost-of-living adjustment for Social Security recipients.
Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said the two men did not have any follow-up talks Wednesday.
"There were some offers that were exchanged back and forth yesterday, and the president and I had a pretty frank conversation about just how far apart we are," Boehner said after his meeting with fellow Republican lawmakers. "He said it's looking like trench warfare," said Rep. John J. Duncan Jr., R-Tenn., referring to Boehner.
Among those who would be affected if a deal is not reached are poor and elderly Americans who rely on aid from the federal government to heat their homes.
Among the spending cuts is an automatic 10 percent reduction in funds from the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.
The program distributes funds to all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories for both heating and cooling costs, but it is particularly important in low-income states that rely heavily on heating oil.