Boehner Wants to ‘Come to Grips’ With Deficit in 2013
(WASHINGTON) -- House Speaker John Boehner said Friday that 2013 must be the year the federal government "comes to grips" with its budget deficit, but staked out the same no tax increase for the wealthy the Republican Party has insisted on since before the presidential election.
Talks to end a looming fiscal crisis resumed Friday and both sides appeared to be returning to the negotiating table with no change in their positions and little change in their rhetoric.
"The members of our majority understand how important it is to avert the fiscal cliff," Boehner said in a press conference. He said the way forward includes addressing the debt through tax reform and entitlement reform.
Congress faces a January deadline, dubbed the "fiscal cliff," when taxpayers could be hit with thousands of dollars in tax increases and nearly a trillion in federal spending cuts.
Boehner did not outline a short term solution to avert the fiscal cliff, but suggested that any solution should address the country's long term debt and entitlement issues.
"I'm proposing that we avert the fiscal cliff together in a manner that ensures that 2013 is finally the year that our government comes to grips with the major problems that are facing us," he said.
Boehner said raising taxes could hurt the economy, but said government could raise revenue by lowering tax rates and eliminating special interest loopholes.
Boehner's statement comes hours before President Obama is expected to address the nation for the first time since his re-election.
Speaking from the East Room on Friday afternoon, Obama will reiterate his position that Congress should move forward on what Democrats and Republicans agree on, that the so-called Bush tax cuts for those making under $200,000 a year should be renewed.
The president, however, does not want to extend Bush era tax cuts for the wealthy.
However, Republicans view allowing the tax cuts to expire for high income earners as a tax increase and a non-starter among their ranks.
"Raising tax rates is unacceptable," said Boehner told ABC News' Diane Sawyer in an exclusive interview on Thursday. "Frankly, it couldn't even pass the House. I'm not sure it could pass the Senate."
Boehner said that reforming the tax code is the only way he would be willing to put additional forms of revenue "on the table" in negotiations.
Obama will seek to set a tone of bipartisanship in upcoming negotiations with Republicans. Following his clear re-election victory on Tuesday, Obama said in his victory speech that voters want action and not "politics as usual."
"In the coming weeks and months, I am looking forward to reaching out and working with leaders of both parties to meet the challenges we can only solve together," Obama said from Chicago, "reducing our deficit, reforming our tax code, fixing our immigration system, freeing ourselves from foreign oil."
Boehner has indicated that he also views the election as a mandate to solve the nation's long-standing tax and deficit problems.
"I'm the most reasonable, responsible person here in Washington. The president knows it. He knows that he and I can work together," Boehner told Sawyer Thursday. "The election's over. Now it's time to get to work."
Both sides say that a deal will be struck in time to avert tax increases for a majority of Americans.
Yet they will have to wrangle with their respective bases, which have each laid down hard lines on taxes, spending and entitlements.
And following Tuesday's election, the composition of the House and Senate moved only slightly; Republicans maintained their House majority, albeit smaller than it was before, and Democrats held a Senate majority slightly larger than the one they had previously.
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