The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

December 18, 2012

Cliff talks hit a lull with Boehner's 'Plan B'

— WASHINGTON (AP) — Just two weeks from an economy-threatening deadline, fiscal cliff talks hit a lull Tuesday as House Speaker John Boehner announced that Republicans would also march ahead with their own tax plan on a separate track from the one he's been pursuing with President Barack Obama.

The White House and leading congressional Democrats immediately rejected Boehner's "Plan B," which would extend soon-to-expire Bush-era tax cuts for everyone making less than $1 million but would not address huge across-the-board spending cuts that are set to strike the Pentagon and domestic programs next year.

"Instead of making tough choices today House Republicans are threatening to abandon serious negotiations," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

Reid added: "Everyone should understand Boehner's proposal will not pass the Senate."

Boehner's surprise move came after significant progress over the past several days in talks with Obama — talks that produced movement on tax rate hikes that have proven deeply unsettling to GOP conservatives and on cuts to Social Security benefits that have incensed liberal Democrats.

Just Monday, Obama offered concessions, including a plan to raise top tax rates on households earning more than $400,000 instead of the $250,000 threshold he had campaigned on. And the two sides had inched closer on the total amount of tax revenue required to seal the agreement. Obama now would settle for $1.2 trillion over the coming decade while Boehner is offering $1 trillion.

By contrast, protecting income below $1 million from a hike in the top tax rate from 35 percent to 39.6 percent would raise only $269 billion over the coming decade.

But the outlines of a possible Obama-Boehner agreement appeared to have shaky support at best from Boehner's leadership team and outright opposition from key Republicans like vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, R-Wis., a House GOP aide said. That aide spoke only on condition of anonymity because the aide was not authorized to discuss the situation publicly.

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