Boehner hints he’d OK higher taxes

House speaker says no deal will come if Obama re­fuses to com­pro­mise.

Austin American-Statesman - - THE SECOND FRONT - By David Light­man an­danita Ku­mar Mcclatchy News­pa­pers PABLO MARTINEZ MON­SI­VAIS / AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

WASHINGTON — House Speaker John Boehner on Fri­day wouldn’t rule out higher in­come-tax rates as part of an agree­ment to avert the coming “fis­cal cliff,” but he also said no such move­ment was pos­si­ble un­less Pres­i­dent Barack Obama showed more in­ter­est in com­pro­mis­ing.

The Ohio Repub­li­can was asked at a news con­fer­ence whether he could ac­cept higher rates, per­haps 37 per­cent, and “pro­tect small busi­ness at the same time.”

“There are a lot of things that are pos­si­ble to put the rev­enue that the pres­i­dent seeks on the ta­ble,” he said.

Boehner re­it­er­ated later that he still op­poses higher tax rates, but his ini­tial com­ments are sig­nif­i­cant, be­cause they sug­gest that higher rates might be part of a deal.

Bush-era tax cuts ex­pire at the end of the year, and $109 bil­lion in au­to­matic spend­ing cuts will take ef­fect Jan. 2 un­less law­mak­ers act.

Obama cam­paigned on a pledge to raise taxes on the wealthy but to keep Bush-era rates in­tact for in­di­vid­u­als who make less than $200,000 a year and fam­i­lies earn­ing less than $250,000.

He’s said since the elec­tion that other rates must go up. Cur­rently, the top rates are 33 and 35 per­cent; they’re slated to rise to 36 and 39.6 per­cent next year. Obama has sug­gested that he could ac­cept a num­ber in be­tween, and Capi­tol talk has cen­tered on 37 per­cent.

Boehner was hardly op­ti­mistic Fri­day. “None of it is go­ing to be pos­si­ble if the pres­i­dent in­sists on his po­si­tion, in­sists on ‘my way or the high­way,’ ” he said.

Repub­li­cans in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of­fered a deficit-re­duc­tion package Mon­day but haven’t got­ten a White House counter of­fer. It in­cluded $800 bil­lion in new rev­enue, with no specifics.

Some veteran Repub­li­can law­mak­ers sug­gested that they could ac­cept higher rates, notably Rep. Tom Cole of Ok­la­homa, who’s con­sid­ered close to Boehner, and Sen. Tom Coburn of Ok­la­homa, who is re­garded as one of the Se­nate’s most out­spo­ken con­ser­va­tives.

Obama and Boehner spoke ear­lier this week, and Boehner called the con­ver­sa­tion “pleas­ant, but just more of the same.”

So, Boehner said Fri­day, “There’s no progress to report,” adding, “The White House has wasted an­other week.”

At the White House, of­fi­cials de­clined to com­ment, while the ad­min­is­tra­tion con­tin­ued its pub­lic push for mid­dle­class tax breaks.

Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den had lunch at the Metro 29 Diner in Ar­ling­ton, Va., with a half­dozen hand­picked Amer­i­cans whose in­come taxes would rise if a deal isn’t reached by the end of the month.

Bi­den said it would take “15 min­utes” for a bill to get done if Boehner agreed to let taxes on the wealthy go up.

He said while the ad­min­is­tra­tion pre­ferred hav­ing the rates go up to Clin­ton-era lev­els it was will­ing to ne­go­ti­ate with Repub­li­cans.

Obama is try­ing to pres­sure Congress through a pub­lic re­la­tions blitz while leav­ing top aides to work out a com­pro­mise. By Cassandra Vinograd and Dan­ica Kirka


House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Fri­day that there was ‘no progress to report’ on fis­cal cliff im­passe.

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