House Speaker John Boehner's rejection Thursday of a $4trillion Obama administration budget plan ignited a flurry of accusations about who was responsible for a setback in talks to avoid going over what is called the "fiscal cliff."
Boehner said publicly he was disappointed by the offer made by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner during a meeting, but privately three Republican congressional aides familiar with the offer called it "outrageous" because it contained no compromise Republicans can accept.
If there's no action, the economy could tip over the cliff on Dec. 31 when all of the Bush-era tax rates expire and the first of $1.2 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years are triggered. That could push the U.S economy back into a recession.
It's not the White House's fault, President Obama's spokeswoman Amy Brundage said. GOP lawmakers, she said, are "the only thing preventing us from reaching a deal that averts the fiscal cliff" and a tax hike for most Americans.
The Republican aides, who spoke on background because they are not authorized to speak on the record, called the proposal a step back from the conversations that have been ongoing since congressional leaders met with Obama two weeks ago.
As described by the GOP aides, which the White House did not dispute, the plan includes a two-stage process with key provisions such as:
$1.6 trillion in revenues, including $960 billion from raising the top marginal rates on wealthy Americans as well as higher capital gains and dividends and an additional $600 billion from unspecified revenue sources.
An extension of the Social Security payroll tax break and unemployment insurance benefits.
One-year deferral of "sequestration," the $1.2 trillion spending cuts over 10 years.
A multiyear stimulus package with at least $50 billion in the first year.
A permanent increase in the debt limit that would change the current law requiring congressional approval.
The second stage calls for a tax overhaul next year consistent with Obama's request for $1.6 trillion in more revenue, as well as a promise to support $400 billion in savings from Medicare and other entitlements.
Such a pitch, the Republican aides said, would be as unrealistic as House Republicans offering their budget from earlier this year, a plan Democrats roundly rejected.
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