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Boehner: ‘Fiscal cliff’ talks deadlocked

House Speaker John A. Boehner on Friday said ongoing budget talks between the White House and Republicans intended to head off a "fiscal cliff" have hit a wall, and accused President Obama of failing to negotiate in good faith.

"There's a stalemate, let's not kid ourselves," said Mr. Boehner, an Ohio Republican, during a Friday news event at the Capitol. "Right now we're almost nowhere."

The administration a day earlier floated a budget framework to Republicans calling for $1.6 trillion in tax increases coupled with a promise for future spending trims. GOP leaders immediately panned the offer, saying it wasn't serious and pressed Mr. Obama to include more entitlement cuts.

Mr. Boehner said he's still willing to work with the president to hammer out a deal before the New Year, when George W. Bush-era tax cuts expire and a series of defense and domestic spending cuts kick in — a move many economists say would trigger a crippling recession.

"I'm not trying to make this more difficult," he said. "If you've watched me over the last three weeks, I've been very guarded in what I had to say because I don't want to make it harder for me or the president or members of both parties to be able to find common ground."

Democrats countered that the White House proposal Thursday not only would avoid a recession but also would inject life into a still sluggish economy. The plan includes billions of dollars more in stimulus spending, a call to curtail Congress' control over the federal debt limit, a rise in the estate tax and an increase in taxes on dividends. Those last two items specifically would undo parts of Mr. Bush's 2001 and 2003 tax plans and are likely to be contentious among some Democrats, as well as with Republicans.

In exchange, Mr. Obama repeated his pledge to find up to $400 billion in entitlement spending cuts later, as well as to undertake an overhaul of the tax code.

"We have to make cuts. But in order to get there from here in terms of reducing the deficit, we also must have revenue," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, said Friday in her weekly briefing with reporters at the Capitol.

Democrats added that Republicans have yet to lay out any specific taxes they would increase, nor have they given their own list of spending cuts.

"If they don't like [the president's proposal] which apparently they do not, then they need to counteroffer," said House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, Democrat. "Then at that point in time, we need to sit down and see where we can reach agreement."

But Republicans say they've already negotiated in good faith by agreeing to allow the government to raise tax revenue through ending some deductions and closing loopholes, though they've held strong against raising tax rates. They now say it's the Democrats' turn to bring more to the negotiating table — namely bigger cuts to major entitlements such as Medicare.

"They want to have this extra spending that's actually greater than the amount they're willing to cut," Mr. Boehner said. "It was not a serious proposal."

The speaker also scoffed at the notion his party hasn't offered a detailed plan, saying "a lot of ideas have been put on the table."

"We've had conversations, and I'm sure we'll continue to have conversations," he said.

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