President Barack Obama and U.S. House Speaker John Boehner sought to keep "fiscal cliff" talks alive after indicating no new progress, The Washington Post said.
Obama telephoned the Ohio Republican Tuesday night after receiving the speaker's latest proposal for a deal on taxes and spending to avoid the cliff's $500 billion in automatic tax hikes and across-the-board spending cuts due to take effect in 20 days.
The offer was virtually identical to the document Obama summarily rejected last week, Republican aides told the newspaper. The Wall Street Journal said an official familiar with the talks characterized Boehner's offer as not "dramatically" different from last week's.
Obama's chief negotiator, Rob Nabors, later rushed to the Capitol to meet with Boehner's top aides, the Post said.
Boehner made a rare statement from the House floor earlier Tuesday admonishing Obama to offer more, and more specific, spending cuts, needed to get Republican support.
Republicans want more spending cuts than Democrats will accept -- particularly on popular health and retirement programs forecast to swell the national debt in coming decades -- and Democrats have proposed more tax increases than Republicans will accept.
"Where are the president's spending cuts?" Boehner said on the floor. "The longer the White House slow-walks this process, the closer our economy gets to the fiscal cliff."
Obama told the ABC news magazine "20/20" Tuesday night that if Republicans relent on their resistance to tax rates going up on the wealthy, "then we are prepared to do some tough things on the spending side."
"Taxes are going to go up one way or another," he said, "and I think the key is that taxes go up on high-end individuals."
White House officials said they were still waiting for Republicans to produce an offer that includes higher tax rates on incomes above $250,000.
Obama was to hold a conference call with a bipartisan group of mayors and community leaders at noon EST Wednesday to this demand as part of his "balanced approach" to reducing the deficit, the White House said Tuesday night.
"There is a deal out there that's possible, and we do believe that the parameters of a compromise are pretty clear," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters Tuesday.
"What is required," he said, "is agreement by Republicans to some specific revenues that includes raising rates on the highest earners, and some decisions in the two-stage process that we've put forward and I think the Republicans agree on, on how we move forward on spending cuts and broader entitlement and tax reform."
As part of the talks, the White House told Republicans it would include an overhaul of the corporate-tax code as part of any deal to reduce the deficit, the Journal said.
The corporate-tax suggestion wasn't specific, other than committing to overhauling the corporate tax code next year, officials familiar with the offer told the newspaper.
White House officials, in making the suggestion, cited a corporate-tax plan the administration unveiled in February but said they weren't wedded to its details.
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