Congressional Republicans on Wednesday called on U.S. President Barack Obama to offer a counter-proposal to their plan to avert the looming fiscal cliff of austerity measures and tax increases.
Speaker of the House John Boehner told reporters a Republican plan offered earlier in the week but dismissed by Obama, "was the balanced approach that the president has been asking for. Now we need a response from the White House, we can't sit here and negotiate with ourselves."
He called on Obama to send a counter-offer that can pass both chambers of Congress if he does not like the lawmakers' proposal.
Obama in a meeting with business leaders stood by his vow to raise taxes on the wealthy as part of any deal, and said if Republicans give on the issue a deal could be reached quickly.
"We can probably solve this in about a week. It's not that tough," he said. "But we need that conceptual breakthrough that says we need to do a balanced plan; that's what's best for the economy; that's what the American people voted for; that's how we're going to get it done."
White House spokesman Jay Carney clarified that "an agreement won't happen until they acknowledge rates have to go up."
Obama had dismissed as insufficient on Tuesday the Republican proposal that they say would lower deficit spending by $2.2 trillion over the next decade. The Obama administration had offered its own plan a week before that did not maintain the tax cuts on the wealthy the Republicans had sought to maintain.
Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor on Wednesday said it was clear where both sides stood on tax issues, but called on the president to be more specific about spending cuts.
"We ask the president sit down with us, and be specific about the spending so we can finally solve the problem," he said.
The conservative Republicans said their plan would slow the growth of the national debt by raising $800 billion in new tax revenues - without hiking income tax rates - slicing $600 billion from federal health programmes and adjusting the calculation of inflation to save $200 billion on Social Security pensions.
It includes $300 billion in savings from other mandatory programmes, such as farm subsidies. Added together with other, smaller cuts, it would produce $2.2 trillion in new savings, the Republicans said.
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