Budget talks appear to stall
Neither side shows signs of budging as deadline looms.
WASHINGTON — Republicans aren’t budging on tax rates, and Democrats are resisting steps such as raising the eligibility age for Medicare. Negotiations again appear stalled on averting big automatic tax hikes and sweeping spending cuts at the end of the year.
There are less than three weeks before the government could careen off this “fiscal cliff,” but the chief GOP negotiator, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Wednesday that “serious differences” remain between him and President Barack Obama after an exchange of offers and a pair of conversations this week.
Boehner spoke after a closed-door meeting with fellow GOP lawmakers in which he advised them not to make plans for the week after Christmas.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke weighed in as well. He said, “Clearly, the fiscal cliff is having effects on the economy,” the uncertainty affecting consumer and business confidence and leading businesses to cut back on investment.
Neither side has given much ground, and the exchange of proposals seemed to generate hard feelings more than progress. The White House has slightly reduced its demands on taxes — from $1.6 trillion over a decade to $1.4 trillion — but isn’t yielding on demands that rates rise for wealthier earners.
Boehner responded with an offer very much like one he gave the White House more than a week ago that offered $800 billion in new revenue, half of Obama’s demand. Boehner is also pressing for an increase in the Medicare eligibility age and a stingier costof-living adjustment for Social Security recipients.
Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said the two men did not have any follow-up talks Wednesday.