WASHINGTON Dec 7 With about three weeks left
before the "fiscal cliff" deadline, the task of avoiding the
steep tax hikes and spending cuts was down to talks between
Republican House Speaker John A. Boehner and President Barack
Obama, according to Capitol Hill aides.
Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi are "being kept in the loop," said
an aide close to Democratic leaders, ready to work out any
"The White House and Boehner have the most to work out, so
they do the most talking," he said on Friday.
Fundamental differences remain. The president is demanding
that tax cuts set to expire on Dec. 31 be extended for the
middle-class taxpayers but not for the more affluent.
If and when agreement is reached on that question, the two
sides will try figure out a way to deal with the spending cuts,
perhaps postponing or trimming them, and work toward a
longer-term deficit reduction package to be taken up after the
newly elected Congress is sworn in next month.
"It's going to require both leaders," said Obama senior
adviser David Axelrod told MSNBC on Friday. "Each is going to
have to make sacrifices in order to get this done. I think
everybody recognizes the consequences of not getting it done."
"In order to solve the problem and achieve the $4 trillion
in savings, you're going to have to do a balanced package,
including all of these things," he said, in answer to a question
about the balance between tax hikes and entitlement reforms.
It's no surprise that Boehner and Obama are the central
players in the final weeks - that has been the pattern in
previous showdowns over fiscal issues between the two parties.
Boehner will have a challenge selling whatever agreement he
might reach to the Tea Party sympathizers in the House, some of
whom are openly critical of the concessions the speaker has
already made, particularly his openness to revenue increases of
any kind, even if not the tax hikes sought by Obama.
But with polling showing that Americans will blame
Republicans if the country goes off the cliff, more House
Republicans have been urging Boehner to get an agreement quickly
even if it means tax hikes for the wealthy.