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'Fiscal cliff' talks turn sour: Are prospects for deal vanishing?

House Speaker John Boehner charges that 'no substantive progress has been made' to avoid the Dec. 31 fiscal cliff, but such comments are a part of negotiating, an expert says.

By Staff writer / November 29, 2012

House Speaker John Boehner (R) of Ohio gestures as he speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill after private talks with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on Thursday.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP



Meetings between Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and congressional leaders on Thursday marked the first post-election acrimony between the parties in their pursuit of a solution to the “fiscal cliff.”

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Monitor correspondent Liz Marlantes discusses why Democrats have the upper hand over the GOP when it comes to 'fiscal cliff' negotiations.

Republicans stewed over the fact the White House has not offered them specific spending or entitlement changes. Democrats dismissed Republican complaints as empty posturing, saying that the GOP was on the verge of conceding to the Democratic goal of higher tax rates on the wealthy and that the onus is, in fact, on Republicans to spell out the entitlement and government spending reductions they seek.

Together, the statements by both parties end the brief honeymoon at the outset of negotiations and signal the “push-back moment,” where each party publicly retrenches in hopes of getting more out of its adversary, and where the possibility of a deal could still break for better or worse, says Julian Zelizer, a congressional historian at Princeton University.

House Speaker John Boehner (R) of Ohio sounded the first sour note of what had been three weeks of "kumbaya" from Washington’s political leadership, a time when leaders of both parties have waxed eloquent about the need to work together to solve the pending fiscal cliff, some $600 billion in higher taxes and lower government spending scheduled to hit the economy beginning Jan. 1.

“Two weeks ago we had a very productive conversation at the White House. Based on where we stand today, I would say two things,” Speaker Boehner told reporters after his meeting with Secretary Geithner, the point person for the White House’s negotiations with Congress. “First, despite claims that the president supports a ‘balanced’ approach, the Democrats have yet to get serious about real spending cuts. And secondly, no substantive progress has been made in the talks between the White House and the House over the last two weeks.”

The criticism that Mr. Obama has not laid out specific reductions to discretionary government spending or entitlement programs, such as Medicare, was also on the lips of Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R) of Kentucky.

“To date, the administration has remained focused on raising taxes and attending campaign-style events, with no specific plans to protect Medicare and Social Security or reduce our national debt in a meaningful way,” Senator McConnell said in a statement. “And today, they took a step backward, moving away from consensus and significantly closer to the cliff.” 


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