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Less campaign, more leadership

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, California Republican, told him that the Democrat needs to persuade Mr. Obama to curtail his travel schedule and sit down at the table with Republican leaders.

“Ask the president to come off the campaign trail. He’s been to Pennsylvania, tomorrow he’s going to Detroit,” said Mr. McCarthy. “It’s time to govern. The election is over. We sent him a plan, it took him three weeks to respond. He has not responded to our current one. You cannot negotiate with yourself.”

Republicans continue to argue that the crux of the problem lies with spending, not revenue, with some noting that Mr. Obama had proposed another $50 billion in stimulus spending that essentially would negate his proposed spending cuts.

John Boehner’s trying to focus this where it belongs, and that’s on spending restraint and entitlement reform because this revenue won’t come close to dealing with our fiscal problems,” Rep. Tom Cole, Oklahoma Republican, said on CNN-TV’s “State of the Union.”

An intermediate step

Mr. Cole, an ally of the speaker who has urged House Republicans to accept a deal to avert the fiscal cliff that would save all but 2 percent of the expiring tax cuts, said that “tax rates are going up anyway; we’re not ‘raising them,’ that’s current law.”

“It’s the Democrats going around screaming that, ‘Your taxes are going to go up, your taxes are going to go up,’ so let’s just take that 98 percent off of the table,” Mr. Cole said.

Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner has said the White House is willing to let the economy go over the fiscal cliff unless Republicans agree to tax hikes on the highest earners, but Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, who headed the bipartisan deficit reduction commission, called that alternative disastrous.

Mr. Bowles said, however, that he was “encouraged” by the progress of the past few days.

“We were going through the Kabuki theater, you know, one side making an offer and the other side rejecting it,” Mr. Bowles said on CBS-TV’s “Face the Nation.” “But, you know, they’ve started to tango now. And, you know, anytime you have two guys in there tangoing, you have a chance to get it done.”

Susan Crabtree and David Eldridge contributed to this report.