FISCAL CLIFF

Fiscal Cliff: Obama, Boehner meet Tuesday

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In his noontime remarks on the House floor, Boehner said, "Let's be honest. We're broke. The plan we offered is consistent with the president's call for a balanced approach."

"We're still waiting for the White House" to do the same," added the Ohio Republican.

GOP senators across the Capitol soon echoed his remarks.

"You have to ask the question, Is the president obsessed with raising taxes?" said Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, a member of the GOP leadership.

Referring to the president's occasional outside-the-Beltway trips to build public support for his position, Thune said Obama was "doing a victory lap" after the campaign.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said GOP lawmakers are determined to overhaul benefit programs so they can "meet the demographics of the country." He recently said Republicans want to curtail annual cost-of-living benefits for Social Security and other government benefits, as well as raise the age of eligibility for Medicare from 65 to 67 beginning at some point in the future.

"The president seems to think that if all he talks about are taxes, and that's all reporters write about, somehow the rest of us will magically forget that government spending is completely out of control and that he himself has been insisting on balance," McConnell said on the Senate floor.

He highlighted several government programs as examples of what he said was wasteful spending.

"A few weeks ago, Senator (Tom) Coburn issued a study that showed taxpayers are funding Moroccan pottery classes, promoting shampoo and other beauty products for cats and dogs and a video game that allows them to relive prom night," McConnell said. "Get this: Taxpayers also just spent $325,000 on a robotic squirrel named RoboSquirrel."

The two sides had presented rival initial offers in the cliff negotiations.

Obama's plan would raise $1.6 trillion in revenue over 10 years, in part by raising tax rates on incomes over $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for couples. He has recommended $400 billion in spending cuts over a decade.

He also is seeking extension of the Social Security payroll tax cut due to expire on Jan. 1, a continuation in long-term unemployment benefits and steps to help hard-pressed homeowners and doctors who treat Medicare patients.

The White House summary noted that Obama last year signed legislation to cut more than $1 trillion from government programs over a decade, and was proposing $600 billion in additional savings from benefit programs.

It also noted that the health care law that Obama signed into law showed savings of $100 billion. Much or all of that funding came from Medicare, even though Obama's aides insisted during his successful campaign for re-election that he had not made any cuts in that program.

Boehner's plan, in addition to calling for $800 billion in new revenue, envisions $600 billion in savings over a decade from Medicare, Medicaid and other government health programs as well as $300 billion from other benefit programs and another $300 billion from other domestic programs.

It would trim annual increases in Social Security payments to beneficiaries, and it calls for gradually raising the eligibility age for Medicare from 65 to 67, beginning in a decade.

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