Washington (CNN) – Both parties' positions on how to reach a deal to avoid the fiscal cliff seemed to harden Friday, and Democratic and Republicans on Capitol Hill conceded that the next step in reviving the negotiations is unclear.
About a half hour after President Barack Obama wrapped up an event in Pennsylvania designed to ratchet up pressure on the GOP to agree to renewing tax cuts just for those making under $250,000, House Speaker John Boehner told reporters on Capitol Hill that talks were at a "stalemate."
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Boehner and congressional Republicans were still fuming after Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, the lead negotiator for the Obama administration, delivered a proposal they immediately deemed unacceptable.
The White House plan, which Geithner laid out but didn't present in any formal written form, reiterated its long-held stance that upper income tax cuts should expire. It included additional tax measures that would generate a total of $1.6 trillion in new revenue, and it added some new items - $50 billion for a stimulus program and automatic increases in the debt ceiling – two issues that are non-starters with conservatives and only inflamed rank and file members.
Boehner panned the offer again on Friday, saying "it was not a serious proposal. So right now we're almost nowhere."
When Geithner presented the plan to Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday in his office, the top Senate Republican laughed out loud, according to a GOP source familiar with the meeting.
Boehner didn't provide any detailed proposals during his news conference on what he and other Republicans could accept. But he suggested the issues aren't new and the White House should look at previous proposals for ideas about major entitlement reforms and spending cuts.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who attended the Thursday meeting with Geithner, wouldn't say whether the GOP was preparing any formal counter offer, but said the talks would continue.
"This is not a game. We are not interested in playing rope-a-dope. We are interested in trying to solve the problem for the American people so that we don't see taxes go up on anybody, so that we can engage in tax reform, get this economy going again. We are not playing a game we are being serious. That offer yesterday was simply not serious," the Virginia Republican said.
House Republican aides said many members recognize that they are going to have to give some on the tax issue, but they were caught off guard by some additional items Geithner added to the mix on Thursday.
The administration's new demand for more stimulus money and a proposal that would make it harder for Congress to stop the president from raising the debt limit were too much for many House Republicans. These aides said anger is mounting as time ticks toward the year-end deadline, and these additional proposals only made it harder to get GOP support for a broader package.
Ohio Republican Pat Tibieri mocked the White House demand for automatic increases for the debt ceiling.
"It's not even worth an answer. It's Wizard of Oz - crazy. You can't give the president unabated power like that – any president, Democrat or Republican. It's a check and balance in our system that I support."
Rep. Steve LaTourette, R-Ohio, argued for the administration to give more on changes to programs like Medicare, but said Republicans so far "have done a bad job of laying out what the problem is."
LaTourette, who is retiring at the end of the year, told reporters on Capitol Hill that people understand that Obama ran on renewing the tax cuts for 98% of Americans, but said Republicans need to focus more on the cost of programs like Medicare and Social Security.
"To me, I attempt to explain it that you've got to look at the two-thirds of the budget which are the entitlements. They are based upon models that are drawn from the 1950s and the 1930s and they're not sustainable today. We have to explain that better."
The Ohio Republican said he was circulating a letter with the message "go big or go home" signed by members of both parties to show Obama and Boehner there would be bipartisan support for a deal. The letter was not taking a position on any specific proposal, but would urge both sides to compromise.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi pointed to recent results at the polls in support of the Democratic position.
"Elections have consequences; the president campaigned, he made it very clear - he made it very clear that he was supporting tax cuts for the middle class, that he wanted the expiration of the tax cuts for the high end," Pelosi said.
The Democratic leader said if Republicans won't agree to hold a vote, she would use a procedural tool to try to get a majority of signatures on a petition to force a vote on the measure.
With no sign that the partisan rhetoric will let up, Tiberi predicted the president's campaign-style event in Pennsylvania where he aimed to isolate the GOP will backfire.
"I supported the president's (children's health insurance) program. I supported other things that the president has put out there. I'm not dogmatic and ideological when it comes to fixing problems," Tiberi told reporters off the House floor on Friday." But he added: "This president is losing all ability to negotiate with Republicans who want to solve problems by the kind of offer he put on the table yesterday."