House Speaker John Boehner, clearly frustrated after a closed-door meeting with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, said President Obama’s money man offered no “specific” plan for averting the looming end-of-year fiscal crisis, adding: “This is not a game.”
“First, despite the claims that the president supports a balanced approach, Democrats have yet to get serious about real spending cuts,” the Ohio Republican said. “And secondly, no substantive progress has been made in the talks between the White House and the House over the last two weeks.”
Obama dispatched Geithner and White House Legislative Director Rob Nabors to meet separately Thursday with Boehner as well as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
The sessions are seen as an important step in determining how the government will avoid a year-end package of tax increases and spending cuts that could throw the economy into recession.
Reid, meanwhile, said Democrats are still waiting for a reasonable proposal from Republicans on how to resolve the so-called “fiscal cliff.” He told reporters Thursday that “We need a proposal from them.”
Republican lawmakers and the White House are at odds, in particular, over Obama’s push to let tax cuts expire for wealthier Americans.
Obama has chosen to delegate discussions with lawmakers to his team until the makings of a deal firm up enough for him to engage directly. He met with the four leaders on Nov. 16 and spoke with Boehner and McConnell by phone last week.
The president also spoke again with Boehner on Wednesday, a source familiar with the conversation told Fox News. A senior administration official would not characterize what was said on the call or say if a face-to-face meeting is planned. Boehner described the conversation with Obama Wednesday as “direct and straightforward.”
The White House and Congress are trying to reach a deal before Jan. 1 – when all of the Bush-era tax cuts are set to expire and huge reductions to the federal budget kick in automatically. Those spending cuts are part of a default agreement by Congress after it failed to reach a more measured deal to reduce the trillion-dollar annual deficits that have brought the national debt to more than $16 trillion.