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Still time to dodge the cliff, Obama, Boehner say

December 21, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
President Barack Obama issued a stern summons Friday urging lawmakers to pass legislation to prevent the so-called "fiscal cliff" at the end of the year.

President Barack Obama issued a stern summons Friday urging lawmakers to pass legislation to prevent the so-called "fiscal cliff" at the end of the year.

The fiscal cliff would automatically hike up taxes on millions and avoid an imminent expiration of benefits for the long-term unemployed.

A day after accusing the president and his fellow Democrats of doing nothing to prevent the so-called cliff, Republican House Speaker John Boehner said Obama must give more ground to reach an agreement.

In an issued statement released by Boehner's office, the Ohio Republican said he's "ready to find a solution that can pass both houses of Congress."

On Friday, the president said he had offered to meet Republicans halfway when it came to taxes, and "more than halfway" toward their target for spending cuts. President Obama said he remains committed to working toward a goal of longer-term deficit reduction.

"Averting this middle class tax hike is not a Democratic responsibility or a Republican responsibility. With their votes, the American people have decided that government is a shared responsibility," he said, referring to a Congress where power is divided between the two parties.

"Nobody can get a hundred percent of what they want," said President Obama. "This not simply a contest between parties in terms of who looks good and who doesn't. There are real world consequences to what we do here. We move forward together or we don't move forward at all," he added.

Boehner and Obama said they'd head back to the negotiating table and try to strike a deal following the Christmas holidays. Their deadline is fast approaching on Jan. 1.

On Friday, the president said Congress should extend tax breaks for the middle class and extend unemployment benefits before the end of the year.

"Everybody's got to give a little bit in a sensible way" to prevent the economy from pitching over a recession-threatening fiscal cliff, he said.

The developments marked yet another baffling turn in a week that began with news that Obama and Boehner had significantly narrowed their differences on a plan to erase the cliff.

Boehner stepped back and announced what he called Plan B, legislation to let tax rates rise on incomes of $1 million or more while preventing increases for all other taxpayers.

Despite statements of confidence, in a brief statement late Thursday, Boehner recoiled, saying the bill "did not have sufficient support from our members to pass."

The announcement comes one day after Republicans refused to back House Speaker John Boehner's "Plan-B".

Last Monday, Boehner said that Obama had told him he had submitted his bottom line proposal.

"The president told me that his numbers - the $1.3 trillion in new revenues, $850 billion in spending cuts - was his bottom line, that he couldn't go any further."

That contradicted remarks by White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, who said on Thursday that Obama has "never said either in private or in public that this was his final offer. He understands that to reach a deal it would require some further negotiation. There is not much further he could go."

The House and Senate have gone home for the Christmas holiday; lawmakers plan to return Dec. 27.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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