- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 22, 2012

Two days after members of his own party rejected House Speaker John A. Boehner’s “Plan B” proposal to avert the “fiscal cliff,” the Ohio Republican took to the Internet to defend the GOP and slam President Obama’s approach to the budget negotiations.

In the weekly GOP address, Mr. Boehner called on the president, who began his family holiday vacation in Hawaii on Saturday, to “deal honestly” with the American public on the stalled negotiations.

“The House has done its part,” Mr. Boehner said, adding that it’s up to the president and Democrats to take action before the economy goes over the “cliff” – the automatic tax increases and spending cuts set to take effect in January if no budget deal is reached.

Most economists predict the double-barreled blow – less government spending and an estimated $2,000-a-year tax hike for the average family – will push the American economy into the second recession of Mr. Obama’s presidency.

“Unless President Obama and Congress take action, tax rates will go up on every American on January 1,” Mr. Boehner said. “What the president has offered so far simply won’t do anything to solve our spending problem and begin to address our nation’s crippling debt … The president’s solution of raising tax rates would still leave red ink as far as the eye can see. And it would hurt jobs at a time when far too many of our citizens are struggling to find them.”

On Thursday, Mr. Boehner’s “Plan B” imploded when many conservatives in his own caucus told him they couldn’t support it. It would have extended tax cuts for most Americans but would have let rates rise on those making more than $1 million, which conservatives said was still a tax increase.

Since then, some conservative pundits have questioned whether Mr. Boehner should continue as the House speaker – but no House Republican is openly challenging the Ohio Republican.

“I used to run a small business,” Mr. Boehner said. “I’ve seen the damage higher taxes can do to jobs and families. I don’t want tax rates to go up. Republicans don’t want tax rates to go up. The best way to address our crippling debt is to make significant spending cuts and fix our tax code to pave the way for long-term growth and opportunity.”

Despite their differences on the fiscal cliff negotiations, both the president and Mr. Boehner have said they think a deal can get done before year’s end.

“Hope springs eternal, and I know we have it in us to come together and do the right thing,” the speaker said in his taped Saturday remarks.

One day earlier, President Obama told White house reporters that members of Congress, many of whom had already left Washington for their Christmas break, should use the time to “cool off.”

“Everybody can cool off, everybody can drink some eggnog, have some Christmas cookies, sing some Christmas carols, enjoy the company of loved ones. And I’d ask every member of Congress, while they’re at home, to think about that, to think about the obligations we have to the people who sent us here,” he said.

He also indicated there may be a stopgap deal in the works to avoid the fiscal cliff’s tax hikes and spending cuts.
“In the next few days, I’ve asked leaders of Congress to work towards a package that prevents a tax hike on middle class Americans, protects unemployment insurance for two million Americans, and lays the groundwork for further work on both growth and deficit reduction,” he said. “That’s an achievable goal.”

“Call me a hopeless optimist,” the president said. “But I actually still think we can get it done.”

The president and his family arrived in Hawaii, the state where Mr. Obama grew up, on Saturday for a holiday vacation.

The White House hasn’t said when the president will return to Washington.