Boehner: ‘This Isn’t a Progress Report Because There’s No Progress to Report’

By Elizabeth Harrington | December 7, 2012 | 12:54 PM EST

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

( – Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) said no progress has been made with the White House in talks to avert the so-called fiscal cliff: across-the-board tax-rate hikes and automatic spending cuts (sequestration) at the beginning of the new year.

“This isn’t a progress report because there’s no progress to report,” Boehner said during a Capitol Hill press conference on Friday.  “When it comes to the fiscal cliff that is threatening our economy and threatening jobs, the White House has wasted another week.”

Time is running out for the president and Congress to reach an agreement to avoid the tax rate hikes before the end of the year.  Boehner and Republicans have insisted on keeping the Bush era tax rates in place for all Americans, especially with this weak economy, while President Obama has said he will not budge on his demand that the tax rate for the top 2 percent of income earners goes up: a rise from 35 percent to 39.6 percent, which would hit people making $250,000 or more a year.

The House Republican leadership, at the same time, has offered $800 billion in “revenue,” i.e., tak increases, in the the form of ending certain tax deductions.

Boehner said the last offer from the White House was not serious, in which Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner asked for a $1.6 trillion increase in taxes, $200 billion in new stimulus spending (they’ve already spent more than $821 billion) and permanent unilateral authority for the president to raise the debt ceiling, which is the limit on how much money the government can borrow to help pay off the debt. (The deficit for fiscal year is projected to be $1.3 trillion; the total national debt is over $16 trillion.)

President Barack Obama and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

“Eight days ago, Secretary Geithner came here to offer a plan that had twice the tax hikes the president campaigned on and it had more stimulus spending than it had in cuts,” Boehner said.

“And an indefinite and infinite increase in the debt limit, like forever,” he said.  “Four days ago we offered a serious proposal based on testimony of President Clinton’s former chief of staff [Erskine Bowles].  Since then, there’s been no counter offer from the White House.”

“Instead, reports indicate that the president has adopted a deliberate strategy to slow-walk our economy right to the edge of the fiscal cliff,” Boehner said.

The Speaker added that a fiscal cliff deal must include spending cuts, saying, “Washington has a spending problem, not a revenue problem.”

“Even if the president got the tax rate hikes that he wanted, understand that we would continue to see $1 trillion deficits for as far as the eye can see,” he said.

Boehner said he is “ready and eager” to talk with Obama about reaching an agreement, but that Republicans have put revenue (tax increases) on the table as a form of compromise.

“When is he going to take a step towards us?” he asked.

It is estimated that by raising the marginal tax rate on the upper tier income to 39.6 percent, it would generate about $90 billion in tax revenue a year, which is enough money to run the federal government for about 9 days; the U.S. government spends approximately $9.5 billion a day.