'Fiscal cliff' deal closer as Obama, Boehner talks progress
President Barack Obama and House Speaker John A. Boehner have moved closer to an agreement on a plan to avert the year-end "fiscal cliff."
They, however, have to clear several critical hurdles, including winning the support of wary House Republicans.
Obama and Boehner (Republican-Ohio) huddled at the White House for 45 minutes on Monday for their third conversation in the past five days.
According to the Washington Post, Obama laid out a counter-offer that included significant concessions on taxes, reducing the amount of new revenue he is seeking to 1.2 trillion dollars over the next decade and limiting the hike in tax rates to households earning more than 400,000 dollars a year.
Obama had previously sought 1.4 trillion dollars in new revenue, with tax increases on income over 250,000 dollars, the report said.
He also gave ground on a key Republican demand, applying a less-generous measure of inflation across the federal government.
In addition, the president increased his overall offer on spending cuts and dropped his demand for extending the payroll tax holiday, which has benefited virtually every worker for the past two years, the report said.
He is, however, still seeking 80 billion dollars in new spending on infrastructure and unemployment benefits and an increase in the federal government's borrowing limit large enough to avert any new fight over the issue for two years, the report added.
According to the report, senior Republican aides, who also complained that the overall deal remains too tilted towards new taxes, said Boehner has offered a one-year debt-limit increase, and the fresh stimulus spending remains a sticking point.
"Any movement away from the unrealistic offers the President has made previously is a step in the right direction, but a proposal that includes USD 1.3 trillion in revenue for only USD 930 billion in spending cuts cannot be considered balanced," Boehner spokesman Michael A. Steel said in a written statement.
"We hope to continue discussions with the President so we can reach an agreement that is truly balanced and begins to solve our spending problem," he said.
Talks over the fiscal cliff have accelerated since Boehner made an offer Friday to raise tax rates on income over one million dollars and to delay a fight over the government's borrowing limit in exchange for significant cuts to health and retirement programs, the report added.