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Fiscal cliff: Private bargaining, public wrangling

December 11, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
The White House and congressional Republicans are bargaining in secret while sparring in public over a deal to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff.

Officials say President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner have exchanged at least partial proposals in the past two days. Details were sparse, but officials said Mr. Obama did offer to reduce his initial demand for $1.6 trillion in higher tax revenue over a decade to $1.4 trillion.

There is no indication that the president is relenting on his insistence that tax rates go up for upper incomes.

"The longer the White House slow-walks this process, the closer our economy gets to the fiscal cliff," Boehner said on the House floor.

The Ohio Republican said the president had yet to identify specific cuts to government benefit programs that the president would support as part of an agreement that also would raise federal tax revenue.

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

In a swift rebuttal, the White House detailed several proposals Mr. Obama made to cut spending, including recommendations to reduce $340 million from Medicare over a decade and an additional $250 billion from other government benefit programs.

The president'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 and is also seeking extension of the Social Security payroll tax cut due to expire on Jan. 1.

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.

ABC News and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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