House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said on Sunday that Republicans are nowhere near reaching a deal with the White House to avoid going over the "fiscal cliff" at the end of the year.
"Right now, I would say we're nowhere, period. We're nowhere," he told Fox News' Chris Wallace.
Boehner said he was shocked by what he called the "nonserious" budget proposal Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner presented him on Thursday, which calls for $1.6 trillion in tax increases for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans and $80 billion in new spending. “I was just flabbergasted,” he said. “I looked at him and I said, 'You can't be serious.' I've just never seen anything like it. You know, we've got several weeks between Election Day and the end of the year, and three of those weeks have been wasted with this nonsense.”
The expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts and automatic spending cuts that are set to go into effect early next year could be devastating for the economy and potentially spark another recession. The Obama administration is proposing to avoid that cliff by extending unemployment benefits and middle class tax cuts, setting tax rates for the wealthiest Americans back up to Clinton-era levels, investing in infrastructure and ending the Afghanistan war. Republicans have scoffed at President Barack Obama's plan, arguing that it spends more than it saves. But Republicans so far have not put forth any specifics about which spending cuts they would make to balance the budget.
"The ball really is with them now," Geithner told Wallace on Sunday. "They're in a hard place. And they're having a tough time trying to figure out what they can do, what they can get support from their members for. That's understandable. This is very difficult for them. And we might need to give them a little more time to figure out where they go next."
Boehner said there are specific tax loopholes that he would like to eliminate for the wealthy instead of raising taxes on them. But when Wallace asked him repeatedly for specifics, Boehner avoided answering the question. "Listen, there are a lot of options in terms of how to get there," he said. "I'm not going to debate this or negotiate this with you. But if you could sign the bill into law, I'd be happy to."
Boehner said when he saw the election results in November, he conceded that he and the Republicans would have to be willing to allow some tax increases for wealthy Americans in conjunction with deep spending cuts on entitlement programs. But the president, he said, is being a bully on cliff negotiations. "I think when they won the election, they must have forgotten that Republicans continue to hold a majority in the House," he said. "The president's idea of a negotiation is 'roll over and do what I ask.'"
Both Geithner and Boehner said on Sunday that the possibility of going over the fiscal cliff is very real, but that the ball is in the other party's hands.