Vice President Joe Biden pushed back at Republican claims that the White House is purposely delaying a deal to avert the so-called fiscal cliff, saying the the two sides could hash out an agreement in minutes if the GOP would relent and agree to raise tax rates on wealthy Americans.
Talking to reporters at the end of his photo-op lunch with a group of middle-class Americans at an Arlington, Va. Diner, Mr. Biden said it would take “15 minutes” for a bill to get done if Speaker [John] Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, agreed to let taxes go up on the rich.
A deal could be struck “like that” Mr. Biden said, snapping his fingers, noting that Mr. Obama would like him to “sprint” up to Capitol Hill to get the bill and bring it back.
But Republicans are resisting efforts to raise tax rates on the rich, arguing that the revenue could be produced solely by eliminating tax deductions and loopholes.
Earlier Friday, Mr. Boehner said there has been no progress in the negotiations to avert tax increases and deep spending cuts known as the “fiscal cliff” and blamed the White House for trying to “slow-walk our economy right to the edge of the fiscal cliff.”
During his remarks to reporters, Mr. Biden also seemed to show some flexibility on exactly how high taxes would go up on the top 2 percent, if Democrats get their way on increasing rates. President Obama has said that he wants rates to return to 39.6 percent for families making more than $250,000 – what they were during the Clinton administration.
While the White House prefers to have rates go up to the Clinton-era level, Mr. Biden said they are willing to negotiate with Republicans.
“The top brackets have to go up – this is not a negotiable issue. Theoretically, we can negotiate how far up, but we think it should go – the top rate should go to 39.6 percent,” he said.
The event, held at the Metro 29 diner, was intended to build public pressure on Republicans to get a deal done and extend the George W. Bush-era tax cuts for families with income below $250,000.
Afterward, Mr. Biden said a few thousand dollars less in people’s pockets makes a “material difference in their lives” and would prevent some of the people he talked to from paying for piano lessons, gymnastics and other recreational activities for their children.