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."
One side has the American people on their side and the other doesn't....the GOP needs to just go away and destroy some other country.
McConnell, Boehner and Cantor are playing the same old game again. The American voters have spoken and the majority of Americans are in favor of letting the Bush tax cuts expire for the wealthy. Obviously, the Republicans think elections have consequences when they win. Democrats played ball with Bush but, Republicans continue to be entrenched and beholden to the wealthy. I am sick of the games. Let all the tax cuts expire and the cuts take effect. Then the Republicans will have to negotiate to get their pet military spending back and the funding for all their other pet programs like corporate welfare. I hope the President stands his ground. That's the only way we'll make any progress.
Federal government fiscal policy - kick the can down the road.
We need a balanced approach, plain and simple. The Republicans need to return the tax rates to what they were previously. for upper income earners. The Bush tax cuts were never meant to be permanent, and they have done absolutely nothing for the economy. Nothing.
If no deal is made the middle class loses and the Republicans will be voted out of office in the midterms & 2016.
Are you really that stupid to think that increasing taxes on the rich is going to solve your problems.
Think again , there are not enough rich people to make a difference.
But then again you were stupid enough to re-elect Obama , wait and see where his policies will take you , it will get worse than the last 4 years.
Obama is clueless and incompetent , he managed to fool you all.
This is the same old story from the Republicans not listerning to the American people – the Rich must be taxed more end of story, Tax incomes making over 400,000 a year and up and lets call this a day. They are killing the stock market everyday this goes on.
Sniffit.... Perfect, my addition
Hello GOP! With the electorate behind me as President it is now my plans and proposals or you GOP take us over the fiscal cliff.
Laughing at tax increases and spending cut proposals the latter a major plank of your ideas is ignorant arrogant and rude. Sit down with an alternate set of ideas ( not including veto items PPACA or no taxes) Thats called negotiation and compromise .
This is definitely not a game! Real people are & will continue to be affected by our governments inability to work together & solve this problem! Let taxbreaks for the 1% expire, cut government "pork", streamline & eliminate fraud in safetynet programs by all means, but Do Not punish those of us hardest hit by the disaster Bush left us, exacerbated for 3 years & counting, by obstructional GOT-Partiers! Do they want to keep us down? And take away the only means of survival for many Americans, to boot!? We Pay for SS & Medicare, if the programs are going broke it's because "leaders" we have put our trust in have mismanaged the $$! Now they are mismanaging the fiscal cliff, leaving us to hold the bag! I disagree w/ adding a stimulus package, but even more about putting ACA on the table! Growing pains are inevitable in a forward moving society, but it should'nt be this hard to get some compromise & co-operation from those we have chosen to work for us & the country! Do your jobs, PLEASE!!
If I were Obama – I would take my family on a vacation to Hawaii for the next 4 weeks, and pay for it myself. maybe by that time, the do nothing congress will finally get serious. If obama ends up taking the "bully pulpit" right before the mid-terms, I honestly believe he can get back the dem majority, so we can do the business of this country.
Don't let the media complicate o scare the American people. Any changes in the tax code that take place on 1-1-2013 through 2016 are the result of legislation signed into law by President Barak Obama; He owns them and he can't blame anyone else. If he does, The American people need to Ask Why did he sign legislation he felt was not good for the advancement of the country?
Hope the gop realizes listening to unelected officials will only get them unelected. They keep talking about getting votes yet they're still only showing support for a small percentage that wont get them re elected. The president won like it or not and the people are behind him 100%. go on the white house website and voice your opinion. if the gop realize we are not going to allow them to continue to do nothing they will have to do what is in our best interest.
This is ridiculous! Every time we have an issue in Congress a small group of Congressmen hold everything up. We are totally disgusted with this. The poorest States in the country are Red States and they will be the first to suffer if the Cliff is reached. Stop this nonsense Mr. Boehner and get the job done.
There can be no "next steps" in the face of someone who simply wants to become a dictator.
The American people didn't re-elect the President to enact the Romney economic plan. It's time for the Republicans in Congress to sit down, shut up and do what the American people want.
Come on people! We are spending way too much money, and all of these tax cuts and credits are adding to the deficit and to the debt! Heck, right now we are all not even paying our full share into Social Security–remember that plan that will start going underwater soon?
Yes, the President is promising tax cuts and breaks, but that is going to put us deeper in the hole! Everyone who is complaining about the increases in taxes and loss in benefits - look in the mirror, and tell me you don't sound like the people in Greece in about 20 years?
Don't forget about the military cuts that will happen when we go off the proverbial cliff. And the GOP will really be routed when that happens – personally, I say let's go – I'm in for the plunge – anyone wanna hold hands while we jump?
Congress and the President are in a dead lock so they may as will go home for the Holidays
The GOP is on path of extinction. My way or the highway.
The President and Congress put us in this mess. They should be the first ones to take a pay cut and lose benefits. Plus they should pay for they own medical insurance. After all they were elected to serve the people not themselves.