News Column

Obama, Boehner Meet About 'Fiscal Cliff'

December 10, 2012

By From staff and wire reports

Fiscal Cliff

President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner met Sunday at the White House to discuss "efforts to resolve the fiscal cliff," White House spokesman Joshua Earnest said.

Earnest and Boehner spokesman Michael Steel would not divulge details of the discussion, the first face-to-face meeting between just Obama and Boehner on the "fiscal cliff."

The clock is ticking to avert the fiscal cliff, when a combination of automatic tax increases and spending cuts kick in at the beginning of the year.

Earlier Sunday, a Senate Republican said he would probably agree to higher tax rates on the wealthiest Americans if it meant getting a chance to overhaul costly government entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security.

The comments by Bob Corker of Tennessee -- a fiscal conservative who has been gaining stature in the Senate as a pragmatic deal broker -- puts new pressure on Boehner and other Republican leaders to rethink their long-held assertion that even the very rich shouldn't see their rates go up next year. GOP leaders have argued that the revenue gained by hiking the top two tax rates would be trivial to the deficit and that any tax hike hurts job creation.

Now Corker says insisting on that red line -- especially since Obama won re-election after campaigning on raising tax rates on the wealthy -- might not be wise.

"There is a growing group of folks looking at this and realizing that we don't have a lot of cards as it relates to the tax issue before year end," Corker told Fox News Sunday.

If Republicans agree to Obama's plan to increase rates on the top 2% of earners, Corker added, "the focus then shifts to entitlements and maybe it puts us in a place where we actually can do something that really saves the nation."

Besides getting tax hikes through the Republican-dominated House, Corker's proposal faces another hurdle: Democrats haven't been receptive to GOP proposals on the entitlement programs. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., on Sunday was skeptical about proposals to increase the eligibility age for Medicare from 65 to 67. He said on NBC's Meet the Press that he doesn't see Congress addressing the issue of overhauling Medicare in the three weeks remaining before the end of the year.

"I just don't think we can do it in a matter of days here before the end of the year," Durbin said. "We need to address that in a thoughtful way through the committee structure after the first of the year."

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Source: Copyright USA TODAY 2012

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