House Republicans sent a counterproposal to avert the "fiscal cliff" to the White House on Monday outlining a $4.6 trillion deficit reduction proposal without raising tax rates.
President Obama and Senate Democrats have said that without a deal to raise tax rates on the wealthiest Americans, there is no path forward to avert the fiscal cliff at the end of the year when George W. Bush-era tax rates expire and $1.2 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years are triggered.
The Republicans' proposal is based on a framework outlined last year by former Clinton White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles, who co-chaired Obama's debt commission, and included an increase in the eligibility age for Medicare benefits. Republicans did not offer specific language on raising the age in their proposal, but Bowles has supported raising the age to 67.
Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, also discussed gradually raising the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67 during their unsuccessful talks on deficit reduction in 2011.
"What we're putting forth is a credible plan that deserves serious consideration by the White House, and I would hope that they would respond in a timely and responsible way," Boehner told reporters.
The GOP offer is in response to a White House plan presented to congressional leaders last week by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, which was dismissed by GOP leaders who said its $1.6 trillion request for new tax revenue without comparable spending cuts or entitlement changes was an unserious proposal.
The House plan received a similar reception Monday from White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer, who said the Republican plan "does not meet the test of balance. In fact, it actually promises to lower rates for the wealthy and sticks the middle class with the bill."
Bowles said, "It will be necessary for both sides to move beyond their opening positions and reach agreement on a comprehensive plan."
The House proposal was short on specifics but calls for $800 billion in new revenue achieved through closing loopholes and capping deductions; $900 billion in health care and other mandatory spending cuts; $300 billion in spending cuts for discretionary spending, which includes social programs such as food stamps; and $200 billion gained by changing the way the government calculates cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security and Medicare.
The Republican plan would also turn off the $1.2 trillion automatic spending cuts at the end of the year to resolve that component of the "fiscal cliff," two senior GOP congressional aides said. They spoke anonymously because they weren't authorized to speak publicly about the details of the proposal.
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