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Still time to dodge the cliff, Obama, Boehner say

President flying to Hawaii tonight, but will return next week

By David Espo

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 02:53 p.m. HST, Dec 21, 2012

WASHINGTON » With Congress in gridlock and stocks taking a fall, President Barack Obama issued a stern summons to lawmakers today to pass legislation to prevent year-end fiscal cliff tax increases on millions and avoid an imminent expiration of benefits for the long-term unemployed.

Republican House Speaker John Boehner said Obama himself must give more ground to reach an agreement. He added, "How we get there, God only knows."

Congress was shutting down, and Obama was headed to Hawaii to join his family for the holidays. But both men indicated they'd be back working to beat the fast-approaching Jan. 1 deadline with an agreement between Christmas and New Year's.

One day after House anti-tax rebels torpedoed Boehner's 'Plan B' legislation because it would raise rates on million-dollar-earners, Obama said he still wants a bill that requires the well-to-do to pay more. "Everybody's got to give a little bit in a sensible way" to prevent the economy from pitching over a recession-threatening fiscal cliff, he said.

He spoke after talking by phone with Boehner — architect of the failed House bill — and meeting with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Boehner's office quickly issued a statement saying the Ohio Republican intends to return to the Capitol after Christmas "ready to find a solution that can pass both houses of Congress." At the same time, spokesman Brendan Buck said, "we remain hopeful he (Obama) is finally ready to get serious about averting the fiscal cliff."

At the White House, Obama projected optimism as he struggled to deal with the wreckage of weeks of failed negotiations and political maneuvering. "So call me a hopeless optimist, but I actually still think we can get it done," he said of an elusive deal.

The president spoke at the end of a day in which stocks tumbled and congressional leaders squabbled as the fiscal cliff drew implacably closer.

Boehner spoke in the morning, describing the increasingly tangled attempts to beat the Jan. 1 deadline and head off the perilous combination of across-the-board tax hikes and deep spending cuts.

Obama spoke shortly before a scheduled departure to join his family in Hawaii for Christmas, but in an indication of the importance of the issue, he told reporters he would be returning to the White House next week.

He said that in his negotiations with Boehner, he had offered to meet Republicans halfway when it came to taxes, and "more than halfway" toward their target for spending cuts.

He said he remains committed to working toward a goal of longer-term deficit reduction, but in the meantime he said quick action is needed to keep taxes from rising for tens of millions.

"Averting this middle class tax hike is not a Democratic responsibility or a Republican responsibility. With their votes, the American people have decided that government is a shared responsibility," he said, referring to a Congress where power is divided between the two parties.

"We move forward together or we don't move forward at all," he added.

Progress was invisible one day after House Republican rebels thwarted Boehner's plan to prevent tax increases for all but the nation's million-dollar earners. And while neither House is expected to meet again until after Christmas, officials in both parties said there was still time to prevent the changes from kicking in with the new year.

Yet they pointedly disagreed which side needed to make the first move.

"It's time for the speaker and all Republicans to return to the negotiating table," said Senate Democratic leader Reid.

He said that, for now, Boehner should allow a vote on legislation that would block all tax increases except for individuals making more than $200,000 and couples making $250,000 — the position that Obama carried through his successful campaign for re-election.

Reid said it would pass the House with votes from lawmakers from both parties, and, separately, some Democrats said it was possible similar legislation may yet be launched in the Senate.

Moments later, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said Democrats had "spent all day yesterday defeating" the legislation in the House — even though Boehner himself said it had been deep-sixed by GOP opposition.

Countering Reid's offer, McConnell said the Senate should pass legislation extending tax cuts at all income levels and requiring a comprehensive overhaul of the tax code. Beyond that, he said, "''Look: It's the president's job to find a solution that can pass Congress. He's the only one who can do it."

Rhetoric aside, the Dow Jones Industrial Average declined 121 points in what analysts said was a reaction to the events in the capital.

The developments marked yet another baffling turn in a week that began with news that Obama and Boehner had significantly narrowed their differences on a plan to erase the cliff. Both were offering a cut in taxes for most Americans, an increase for a relative few and cuts of roughly $1 trillion in spending over a year. Also included was a provision to scale back future cost-of-living increases for Social Security recipients — a concession on the president's part as much as agreeing to higher tax rates was for the House speaker.

GOP officials said some senior Republicans balked at the emerging terms.

Boehner stepped back and announced what he called Plan B, legislation to let tax rates rise on incomes of $1 million or more while preventing increases for all other taxpayers.

Despite statements of confidence, he and his lieutenants decided late Thursday they were not going to be able to secure the votes needed to pass the measure in the face of opposition from conservatives unwilling to violate decades-old party orthodoxy never to raise tax rates.

Officials said as many as two dozen rank-and-file Republicans had made it clear they would oppose the bill, more than enough to send it to defeat given unanimous Democratic opposition.

At his Friday morning news conference several hours later, Boehner dismissed suggestions that he was concerned the turn of events could cost him his speakership.

"No, I am not," he said.

"While we may have not been able to get the votes last night to avert 99.81 percent of the tax increases, I don't think — they weren't taking that out on me," Boehner said of the Republican rank and file. "They were dealing with the perception that somebody might accuse them of raising taxes."

Boehner also said that last Monday he had told Obama he had submitted his bottom line proposal.

"The president told me that his numbers — the $1.3 trillion in new revenues, $850 billion in spending cuts — was his bottom line, that he couldn't go any further."

That contradicted remarks by White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, who said on Thursday that Obama has "never said either in private or in public that this was his final offer. He understands that to reach a deal it would require some further negotiation. There is not much further he could go."


Associated Press writers Andrew Taylor, Alan Fram and Jim Kuhnhenn contributed to this story.

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entrkn wrote:
Boehner's gods are named Karl Rove, Rush Limbaugh, and the Koch bros...
on December 21,2012 | 09:11AM
Matsu wrote:
Obama's gods are named Alinsky and Soros. So what's your point? I would rather have Rove and Limbaugh who believe in smaller Gov't and following the Constitution, than guys like Soros and Alinsky who have preached radicalism and the destruction of the Costitution.
on December 21,2012 | 10:39AM
IAmSane wrote:
Hahahah. You guys are funny.
on December 21,2012 | 11:14AM
aomohoa wrote:
It's a "my dad is better than you dad game". Boys don't fight like children, entrkn and Matsu. :)
on December 21,2012 | 02:25PM
Highinthesierras wrote:
And the joke is on us.
on December 21,2012 | 02:53PM
kainalu wrote:
God? Please, let there be a Santa Claus.
on December 21,2012 | 09:30AM
DowntownGreen wrote:
Such a leader... he should have known better, but embarassed himself anyway.
on December 21,2012 | 09:43AM
kainalu wrote:
Tea Party has all but killed the Grand Old Party. While the TP appeals to the base, it doesn't go much further than that. Meanwhile, Boehner backed all the traditional Republicans in those races won by TP candidates, and they're making him pay for it now by holding the GOP, hence, the country hostage. The Tea Party is the worst thing that's happened to the GOP and the country.
on December 21,2012 | 10:30AM
Matsu wrote:
Tea party stands for reducing onerous taxes, and demanding that the Federal Gov't curb their outladish spending and rapidly raising debt. So they sound like the adults. While the liberals and the sell-outs in the GOP, want to keep on spending. So are you saying that it is good for the country to go into massive debt?
on December 21,2012 | 10:43AM
busterb wrote:
Well if the NRA gets their wish and 140,000 public schools have to hire ONE armed guard each... I think that might raise taxes a bit. Talk about increasing the size of government. 140,000 new gov't workers... at least.
on December 21,2012 | 12:04PM
Highinthesierras wrote:
Believe me, teachers' pensions costs far outweigh costs of security. Did you know in Hawaii the teachers' pension is over $2.25 BILLION in the hole. Then,we have salaries, benefits etc. - and the result, a dismal eduction. No wonder has more private schools per capita than any other state.
on December 21,2012 | 02:59PM
Toneyuki wrote:
Average budget of each school is how much? Average cost of 1 ONE 1 armed police officer (that would have the best schedule ever?) is how much? The security of not worrying about the safety of MY CHILDREN when they are at school? PRICELESS!
on December 21,2012 | 07:43PM
lee1957 wrote:
No one has talked of requiring armed guards in schools, only allowing. And to think the Feds are the answer to local problems, sheesh. Let each community decide.
on December 22,2012 | 06:22AM
serious wrote:
I heard the NRA speech and what they suggested is that there is an army of military retireds, veterans, etc to fill the security positions for the schools and in the Right to Work states it wouldn't be that expensive--in Union only states (HI) it would be expensive. The President and family, VP and family, Speaker, the senior Senator, all the ex presidents have armed, around the clock Secret Service protection. How much do you think that costs the taxpayers? Just like Obamacare--it's good for the middle classes but not good enough for THEM!!!
on December 22,2012 | 07:05AM
kainalu wrote:
You mean like the 25 cents to every tax dollar we spend on National Defense? That kind of "onerous" taxes? Yeah, right. That's what I thought.
on December 21,2012 | 12:40PM
Toneyuki wrote:
How about the 40 cents out of every dollar that the federal government spends that it has to borrow?
on December 21,2012 | 07:45PM
lee1957 wrote:
TP is hardly holding the country hostage. Granted, their negotiating position is weak, but absent any agreement, tax revenues will go up by hundreds of billion of dollars over the next decade.
on December 22,2012 | 06:21AM
allie wrote:
total incompetence across the board
on December 21,2012 | 09:47AM
turbolink wrote:
Or perhaps well intentioned leaders on both sides working toward what they believe to legitimate and critical goals. But to you Allie there has rarely been an effort you couldn't find a way to criticize.
on December 21,2012 | 04:04PM
loquaciousone wrote:
Ninety nine percent of the blame goes to the rudderless Republican party -- and 99 percent of the 99 percent goes to the mindless tea party looneys. There is no reason for Bonehead to negotiate a deal with Obama because he does not have the support of the Republican party. Bonehead just wasted two days crafting his plan B. He might as well have been out golfing and napping for all the good that did.
on December 21,2012 | 10:45AM
Matsu wrote:
The PLan B that Boehner proposed was actually the Plan that was originally sent up by your former speaker Nancy Pelosi. Now all of a sudden it is a lousy plan. Interesting. So explain to me how 99% is the fault of the GOP. Our country is in serious debt. The Democrats want to keep on spending. Obama has even admitted that he knows that increasing the taxes of the "millionairs & billionaire" won't solve the problem, but he thinks it looks good to his constituants. The amount of money the Feds will take in from this tax increas will pay for 11 days of the federal spending. The Dems don't want to cut spending, because they have made promises to their constituants. OUR GOV'T IS BROKE!! Get a clue foilks. The Democrats who control the Senate have not submitted a budget for the past three years ( they are required by law to submit a yearly budget). why haven't they? Obama's budgets that have been submitted to Congress have not gotten a "Single" vote from either the GOP or the Dems. So explain why this is the fault of the GOP.
on December 21,2012 | 11:14AM
loquaciousone wrote:
Plan B is a lousy plan because conservative Repulicons refused to back Bonehead on ANY tax increases including those making over a $1 million dollars.
on December 21,2012 | 12:18PM
Matsu wrote:
Explain how raising taxes on a very few, and not making budget cuts makes any sense. Let's make it easy for you: If you make $50K a year, but you spend $80K a year, then get a chance to make $55K a year, but then decide to spend $85K a year, how long can this go on? Democrats need to keep spending, because that's how they get their constinuents to vote them back into office. Making cuts is too diffucult. so they keep spending, and make small symbolic moves to make their voters "feel" good, while they keep leading us into ever deepening ditch. Who is going to PAY?? How many $Trillion is too much?
on December 21,2012 | 02:25PM
Highinthesierras wrote:
Right, over the cliff - everyone pays for four years of deadlock. I do miss Bill Clinton - love him or hate him, he was a leader.
on December 21,2012 | 03:01PM
Toneyuki wrote:
Explain how raising taxes helps anything? Will it actually reduce the deficit? Nope. Even if the tax rates for those making over 250K a year go up to the Clinton tax rates, the annual deficit will still be north of a Trillion EVERY YEAR. And you guys were complaining about Bushes 200-300Billion deficits.
on December 21,2012 | 07:51PM
aomohoa wrote:
What a joke 99%! There needs to be compromise and both sides need to learn how. The ridiculous amount of entitlements in this country. Like the unbelievable abuse of welfare and SS disability! We that pay taxes are sick of paying for the people who don't contribute and know how to work the system!
on December 21,2012 | 02:35PM
serious wrote:
aomoha--correct, and I detest Obama trying to tax the people who have been successful. Germany stopped extending unemployment benefits because it's too easy to sit back, collect $$ against going to WORK---and when they did that their economy ballooned!!! I guess I am old school, but I used to relish getting a paycheck for doing a job. Called satisfaction.
on December 22,2012 | 07:56AM
Matsu wrote:
How many Cities and town need to file bankrupcy before the liberals realize that their plan of taxing everything that moves and breathes does not work. When Obama says he is cutting spending, that means one thing- In Democrat Speak, cutting spending means that you are reducing the amount of the increase, (They are still increasing spending). In the meantime the debt keeps increasing at a rapid rate. To liberals this is okay, as long as they keep getting their "free" stuff.
on December 21,2012 | 10:49AM
IAmSane wrote:
The election is over already. You can tone down the crazy now.
on December 21,2012 | 11:16AM
Matsu wrote:
So because the election is over, we are no longer in massive debt? Cool, "I Am Sane" says nothing to worry about, the election is over. Keep spending all you want. Someone else will pay for it. It doesn't get any better than that.
on December 21,2012 | 11:33AM
brian606 wrote:
There's still time for a fiscal cliff agreement, but I'm going on vacation. See ya.
on December 21,2012 | 12:26PM
Big C wrote:
New Law Needed. They should pass a bill that will require all members of Congress to do their taxes "MANUALLY". They should require all members of Congress to receive pensions (Social Security / Medicare) in the same manner as the average American. They should require all members of Congress to help all the millions of business owners reset/reprogram their software to handle the last minute changes in the Tax Laws. They had all years, but Congress waits till the last few weeks of the year. Just PITIFUL.
on December 21,2012 | 12:38PM
lee1957 wrote:
Congress has the same retirement plan as all other Federal Employees.
on December 22,2012 | 06:26AM
hawaiikone wrote:
Oh really? Then how come I served 4 years and didn't get free medical for life?
on December 22,2012 | 07:21AM
AhiPoke wrote:
Whatever happened to leadership?
on December 21,2012 | 01:00PM
Highinthesierras wrote:
Dudes, you have had four years. Weak performance. You all should be fired, starting with Harry who has not presented a budget for a Senate vote in FOUR YEARS, and Barry's budget lost 100 to 0 in the Senate. What a bunch!
on December 21,2012 | 02:52PM
lee1957 wrote:
I found the article ironic in that Harry Reid was giving Boehner advice on calling for a vote.
on December 22,2012 | 06:27AM
entrkn wrote:
this so called newspaper is censoring my comments
on December 21,2012 | 09:08PM
Changalang wrote:
It is not a cliff; just a bunny slope with a lot of time to correct with more Democratic leverage with Bush tax cuts expired that the masses would blame Congressional Republicans for via Pew Research/Washington Post polling. Everyone step away from the Kool Aide punch poll and let the gravity of events put the grand old elephant to bed once and for all with one bold move; just like Tyke on a City street.
on December 21,2012 | 11:13PM
Changalang wrote:
' "We were sitting rather close, and I remember when Tyke came out and he was tossing the trainer around. It just happened so fast," she said. "I told my husband. 'This can't be for the show.'" Wier vowed never again to attend a circus with large animals. "It changed my outlook for entertainment," she said. Friday marks the 10th anniversary of the day Tyke, a female African elephant, crushed her trainer, Allen Campbell, to death during a circus performance at the Blaisdell Arena. Tyke then bolted out of the Blaisdell Arena into Kakaako, where she was eventually gunned down by police. ' (16AUG2004; Star Bulletin)
on December 21,2012 | 11:16PM
Konawayne wrote:
President Obama and Boehner here is a workable plan. No tax increase for those making $250000 or more a year if they make a major contribution to society with their work, or if their net worth is less than one million as of December 31 of this year. Otherwise they face a tax increase. Come on President Obama and Mr Boehner, we want a plan that benefits society and helps some new people become rich so they will be motivated. THINK! What is a major contribution to society, I will let you solve that, but here is a hint, a medicine that saves lifes, a car safety device that saves lifes , lets get this done. A guy worth 10 billion can afford a tax increase, a guy that just discovers a medicine and has a low self worth deserves a break! I have many great ideas, why don't you?
on December 22,2012 | 02:55AM
serious wrote:
Good ideas, but they normally fall on deaf ears. CNBC had a major CEO on adressing two congressmen --one from each party--he outlined exactly how the 'Cliff could be solved by passing four bills---of course they said it would never pass. A good CEO could solve the mess in an hour. How, Obama wants to get short term relief--in other words, kick the can down the block, AGAIN!!!! Businesses can't prosper on short term thinking--they get 5 -10 longer loans--against a HOPE that their taxes will be 15% not 35%--doesn't make sense--look at HIS cabinet--no one ever worked for themselves all on the gov't ---.
on December 22,2012 | 08:06AM
toomuchpilikia wrote:
Ten % across the board. Everyone should help pay down the deficit. Absolutely NO new spending! NO new spending! NO new spending! Then we need TERM limits! Congress is out of control!
on December 22,2012 | 04:22AM
entrkn wrote:
The GOP is about to lose everything it has gained over the last 40 years...
on December 22,2012 | 06:05AM
asiasky wrote:
All parties in this Kabuki theater are pathetic actors. Both sides can't relate to the average person. They represent themselves and not us. I thought compromise for the greater good was the foundation of our political system. No wonder Americans have lost faith in Washington.
on December 22,2012 | 07:06AM
akuman808 wrote:
God only knows??? Speaker Boehner; we all know you're a failure as leader of the House republicans, no secret there! This isn't about what god knows, it's what you don't know. That is, your smiling "Brutus" Cantor is about to pick up the gavel.. BTW, where's Private Ryan???
on December 22,2012 | 07:09AM
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