WASHINGTON - House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner has signalled new movement in "fiscal cliff' talks that had appeared stalled by proposing a tax hike for earners making more than $1 million, a person familiar with the negotiations said Saturday.
President Barack Obama, who wants higher top rates for households earning more than $250,000, has not accepted the offer, this person said. The proposal, however, indicated progress in talks that had seemed deadlocked. The person would only discuss the plan on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the negotiations.
At issue are expiring Bush-era tax cuts that would automatically vanish on Jan. 1 for virtually every income tax payer if Congress and the president don't act. Steep budget cuts are also scheduled to kick in, unless Congress and Obama agree to forestall them with other deficit reduction measures.
Some have warned the economy's nascent recovery would be reversed by the fiscal cliff. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said this week that the economy has already been affected by the uncertainty, and also warned that the Fed would not be able to offset the impact of the fiscal cliff.
Until now, Boehner had maintained his opposition to raising any rates. Instead, he had proposed to raise up to $800 billion in tax revenue over 10 years by limiting tax loopholes and deductions as part of a broad tax overhaul.
But the speaker and House Republicans have come under increasing pressure form a number of Senate Republicans who say they should yield to Obama's demand on tax rates for the wealthy and then press him for additional cuts early next year in exchange for an increase in the federal borrowing limit.
As part of a broader budget deal, Boehner is still seeking more spending cuts than Obama has proposed, particularly in mandatory health care spending. Boehner has asked for a long-term increase in eligibility age for Medicare, the federal health care program for the elderly, and for lower costs-of-living adjustments for Medicare.
Boehner's tax proposal was first reported by Politico. A Boehner aide would not comment on the report.
Obama has insisted on extending current rates for the 98 per cent of taxpayers in household that earn less than $250,000. He would let the top two marginal rates increase from 33 per cent to 35 per cent and from 36 per cent to 39.6 per cent for those taxpayers making over that threshold.
Obama has proposed about $600 billion in spending reductions over 10 years, including about $350 billion in Medicare and other health care savings. But he has also proposed about $200 billion in additional spending, including aid to the unemployed and to struggling homeowners and for public works projects.
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