* Public back and forth still limited to generalities
* Talks to avoid 'cliff' may have a long way to go
* Obama to meet with U.S. mayors
* Boehner to hold 10 a.m. EST/1500 GMT news conference
By Fred Barbash
WASHINGTON, Dec 12 More public jousting in the
"fiscal cliff" talks is expected from Democrats and Republicans
on Wednesday in what has become a daily ritual of demanding more
specific proposals to avert the steep tax hikes and budget cuts
set for the end of the year.
On Tuesday the White House and House of Representatives
Speaker John Boehner traded offers still couched in broad and
familiar terms that neither side found sufficiently detailed.
Boehner was expected to hold a news conference at 10 a.m.
(1500 GMT) on Wednesday.
At noon (1700 GMT), Obama planned to discuss the economy,
deficit, taxes and the fiscal cliff with bipartisan group of
mayors and community leaders, although that event was private.
If the public back and forth between Boehner and President
Barack Obama reflects what's happening behind the scenes,
negotiations to avoid the cliff have a long way to go in the
short time remaining in 2012.
Obama and Boehner each have proposed cutting deficits by
more than $4 trillion in the next 10 years as a way of averting
the cliff, but they differ on how to get there. Economists have
warned that failure to strike a deal could send the economy back
into a recession.
On Tuesday Boehner rejected what the White House viewed as a
concession, shrinking the proportion of deficit reduction to
come from revenue from $1.6 trillion over 10 years to $1.4
trillion. Boehner has called for $800 billion in revenue through
The White House has also repeated a proposal it made in
February to consider reductions in corporate tax rates, a source
familiar with the talks told Reuters.
That proposition is considered relatively uncontroversial
compared to such politically sensitive matters as cutting
entitlement programs such as Medicare, the government health
insurance program for the elderly.
On Wednesday, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said
Democrats in the House objected to raising the age when seniors
become eligible for Medicare, which now stands at 65, as a way
to cut government spending.
"Raising the retirement age does not get you that much
money, so you're doing a bad thing when it comes to seniors, and
you're not achieving your goal," she told CBS, adding that she
was optimistic that a deal could get done before Congress
adjourns for Christmas.
Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pointed to
Boehner to make concessions on revenues.
"To this point, there hasn't been a lot of progress, and I'm
very, very disappointed," Reid said on the Senate floor
'PLAYING TO THE MEDIA'
White House press secretary Jay Carney, commenting Tuesday
on suggestions of vagueness in Obama's dealings with Boehner,
responded by holding up copies of prior administration budget
proposals that include, among other things, corporate tax
reductions, and comparing them to the two-page offer that
Boehner has sent to the White House.
A senior Republican fiscal hawk, Senator Tom Coburn of
Oklahoma, faulted both sides for playing politics.
"There's no leadership in Washington either at the
presidential level or the leadership level in Congress," Coburn
said on CNN Tuesday night. "People are playing to the media
rather than playing to the future of the country."
Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky suggested in a Fox
News interview late on Tuesday that, to get things moving, the
House vote on the stickiest issue - whether to extend expiring
tax cuts to all taxpayers except high-earners, as Democrats
want, or to everyone, as Boehner wants.
Republicans would simply vote "present" on the Democratic
plan, he said, allowing it to pass.
Let the Democrats approve a tax increase on upper-income
taxpayers, Boehner said.
But "do it with their votes, not our votes," he said.
"Republicans vote present in the House. Democrats can pass the
tax increase with only Democrat votes and then the Democrats are
the parties of high taxes and the Republicans are the party of
lower taxes. And I think that's the way it should be."