Ahead of a private meeting with President Obama Thursday, House Speaker John Boehner said that there's no fiscal cliff deal because the "president wants to pretend that spending isn't the problem."
"Unfortunately, the White House is so unserious about cutting spending, it appears willing to slow walk any agreement and walk our economy right up to the fiscal cliff," he said. "Doing that puts jobs in our country in danger, jeopardizes the golden opportunity to make 2013 the year that we enact fundamental tax reform and entitlement reform, and begin to solve our countries debt problem and, frankly, revenue problem."
Politico reported yesterday that Boehner told Obama privately he was willing to increase his opening revenue bid of $800 billion--but only if the president would agree to make more drastic cuts in entitlements. The White House has asked for a list of entitlement cuts, according to administration officials, but have yet to receive one, and in any case maintain that the heart of the disagreement is tax rates.
Boehner skirted questions Thursday about decoupling a middle-class tax cut from those for the wealthiest 2%. "The law of the land today is that everyone’s income taxes are going to go up on Jan. 1," he said. "I’ve made it clear that I think that is unacceptable. But until we get this issue resolved, that risk remains.”
When asked in followup if he would consider isolating the middle-class tax cuts if the country went over the cliff, Boehner cut the reporter off. "Ifs and ands and buts are only candy and nuts," he said, unwilling to entertain hypotheticals. He added: "My goal is to get an agreement with the president of the United States."
Boehner was immovable on the White House's proposal to give the president unilateral authority to raise the debt limit. "Do you ever think Senator Reid or then-Senator Obama would have ever given to President George W. Bush the unlimited ability to raise the debt limit? Do you think there is any chance Senator Reid or then-Senator Obama would have done that. Zero! Congress is never going to give up any ability to control the purse."
Moreover, Boehner said he believed the debt limit was a useful tool for "bringing sanity to Washington D.C."