Speaker: Obama Resists Curbing Federal Spending

This Nov. 29, 2012, photo shows House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Associated Press + More

By ANDREW TAYLOR, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Speaker John Boehner accused President Barack Obama of being so resistant to curbing federal spending that he risks an agreement to avoid the "fiscal cliff" of wide-ranging tax increases and spending cuts that will be automatically triggered in less than three weeks.

"Unfortunately, the White House is so unserious about cutting spending that it appears willing to slow-walk any agreement and walk our economy right up to the fiscal cliff," Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters Thursday. "And doing that puts jobs in our country in danger."

[PHOTOS: Obama Behind the Scenes]

Boehner's comments underscored how his talks with Obama remain stalled over crafting a compromise deficit-cutting package of revenue increases and spending cuts. Without such an agreement, tax hikes and spending reductions will begin taking effect in early January, steps that economists warn could renew the recession.

Boehner said the White House is demanding too little in spending savings and too much in fresh spending on programs designed to stimulate the economy. Still, even as Obama continues to insist on sizable tax increases on the highest earners — including income tax rate increases — Boehner signaled flexibility If the president would accept deeper spending cuts.

"If the president will step up and show us he's willing to make the spending cuts that are needed, I think we can do some real good in the days ahead," he said.

Boehner said he would reject White House demands that as part of a deal, Congress agree to give up much of its ability to block increases in the government's ability to borrow money. The Treasury is expected to run out of its power to borrow more money early next year — a situation that congressional Republicans successfully used last year to demand spending cuts from Obama.

"Congress is never going to give up our ability to control the purse," Boehner said. "And the fact is that the debt limit ought to be used to bring fiscal sanity to Washington, D.C."

Obama planned to make his case on the fiscal cliff in interviews Thursday afternoon with four local television stations in Philadelphia, Miami, Minneapolis and Sacramento, Calif. The TV markets reach viewers in congressional districts represented by Republican House members but won by Obama in last month's election.

[READ: A Simpleton's Guide to the Fiscal Cliff]

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Obama was "interested in communicating to Americans in every corner of the country about his commitment to work in bipartisan fashion with Congress to ensure that income taxes don't go up on middle class families at the end of the year."

Republicans still aren't budging on Obama's demands for higher tax rates on upper bracket earners, despite the president's convincing election victory and opinion polls showing support for the idea.

Democrats in turn are now resisting steps, such as raising the eligibility age for Medicare, that they were willing to consider just a year and a half ago, when Boehner was in a better tactical position.

Neither side has given much ground, and Boehner's exchange of proposals with Obama seemed to generate hard feelings more than progress. The White House has slightly reduced its demands on taxes — from $1.6 trillion over a decade to $1.4 trillion — but isn't yielding on demands that rates rise for wealthier earners.

Boehner responded with an offer very much like one he gave the White House more than a week ago that proposed $800 billion in new revenue, half of Obama's demand. Boehner is also pressing for an increase in the Medicare eligibility age and a stingier cost-of-living adjustment for Social Security recipients.

On Thursday, Sen. Jim DeMint, a South Carolina Republican and leading conservative figure, predicted that Obama would prevail in the fight over taxes.

[READ: Opinion | Republicans Outmatched in Fiscal Cliff Talks]

A leading conservative who's resigning from the Senate is predicting that President Barack Obama will win the battle over raising taxes.