House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, says he'll resist any effort to make major tax or spending changes in the lame-duck session of Congress beginning next week, seeking instead a short-term deal to delay the year-end "fiscal cliff."
"I've never seen a lame-duck Congress do big things. And as speaker, I feel pretty strongly that a lame-duck Congress shouldn't do big things," he said in an interview with USA TODAY. Boehner said retiring and defeated members -- who get to vote in the lame duck -- should not decide such major legislation.
There will be at least 84 new House members in the next Congress beginning in January: 49 Democrats and 35 Republicans. "I think it's important to wait," Boehner said.
His comments sharpen a deepening partisan divide over the fate of expiring Bush-era tax cuts that threaten a tax hike on nearly every American household if they are allowed to expire as scheduled Dec. 31. And the longer the impasse on a deal, the more spooked U.S. and global markets can become.
Boehner is proposing what he calls a short-term "bridge" that would extend all of the tax rates for one year and buy more time to overhaul the federal tax code. Boehner says that would increase revenue by closing tax loopholes, not by raising the rates individuals pay on their wages.
"There's a lot of ways you could do this that would allow the Congress to fix our tax code next year, look at real spending cuts and entitlement reforms that would produce what the president's called for -- a balanced approach," he said.
No deal, Senate Democrats say. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., outlined an opposing view: Democrats want a deal to extend the Bush-era cuts on everyone except the top earners, and they want it done in the next 53 days.
"Waiting for a month, six weeks, six months, that's not gonna solve the problem. We know what needs to be done," Reid said.
Boehner said his rank-and-file views heading over the cliff as "unacceptable," but he acknowledged there is no clear path forward for compromise. He was optimistic that a deal would be reached between himself, Reid and President Obama. "I have no doubts that they're as interested in doing the will of the American people as I am," Boehner said.
Obama is to make a statement about the fiscal situation this afternoon.
(c) Copyright 2012 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.
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