Politics

December 3, 2012

Republicans issue new 'fiscal cliff' offer to Obama

The GOP plan would reduce the deficit by $2.2 trillion over 10 years, while Obama's plan would reduce it by $4.6 billion. But the GOP says their plan would keep tax rates lower.

The Associated Press

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House Speaker John Boehner said the GOP proposal is a "credible plan" for Obama and that he hopes the administration would "respond in a timely and responsible way."

AP

Monday's Republican plan contains few specific and anticipates that myriad details will have to be filled in next year in legislation overhauling the tax code and curbing the growth of benefit programs.

Tine is growing shorter before the deadline to avert the fiscal cliff, which is a combination of expiring Bush-era tax cuts and automatic, across-the-board spending cuts that are the result of prior failures of Congress and Obama to make a budget deal.

Many economists say such a one-two punch could send the fragile economy back into recession.

GOP aides said their plan is based on one presented by Erskine Bowles, co-chairman of a deficit commission Obama appointed earlier in his term, in testimony to a special deficit "supercommittee" last year — in effect a milder version of a 2010 Bowles proposal that caused both GOP and Democratic leaders in Congress to recoil.

Unlike Bowles' official 2010 plan, drafted with former GOP Sen. Alan Simpson, the version released Monday drops the earlier endorsement of Obama's proposal to increase tax rates on family income exceeding $250,000 back to Clinton-era levels, with the top rate jumping from 35 percent to 39.6 percent.

Bowles, in a statement, said he was flattered but the GOP plan does not represent his proposal.

Still, he added, "Every offer put forward brings us closer to a deal, but to reach an agreement, it will be necessary for both sides to move beyond their opening positions."

By GOP math, their plan would produce $2.2 trillion in budget savings over the coming decade: $800 billion in higher taxes, $600 billion in savings from costly health care programs like Medicare, $300 billion from other proposals such as forcing federal workers to contribute more toward their pensions and $300 billion in additional savings from the Pentagon budget and domestic programs funded by Congress each year.

Boehner signaled in discussions with Obama in 2011 that he was willing to accept up to $800 billion in higher tax revenues, but his aides maintained that much of that money would have come from so-called dynamic scoring — a conservative approach in which economic growth would have accounted for much of the revenue. Now, Boehner is willing to accept the estimates of official scorekeepers like the Congressional Budget Office, whose models reject dynamic scoring.

Under the administration's math, GOP aides said, the plan represents $4.6 trillion in 10-year savings. That estimate accounts for earlier cuts enacted during last year's showdown over lifting the government's borrowing cap and also factors in war savings and lower interest payments on the $16.4 trillion national debt.

Last week, the White House delivered to Capitol Hill its opening proposal: $1.6 trillion in higher taxes over a decade, a possible extension of the temporary Social Security payroll tax cut and heightened presidential power to raise the national debt limit.

In exchange, the president would back $600 billion in spending cuts, including $350 billion from Medicare and other health programs. But he also wants $200 billion in new spending for jobless benefits, public works projects and aid for struggling homeowners. His proposal for raising the ceiling on government borrowing would make it virtually impossible for Congress to block him going forward.

Republicans said they responded in closed-door meetings with laughter and disbelief.

The GOP plan is certain to whip up opposition from Democrats opposed to any action now on Social Security, whose defenders say should not be part of any fiscal cliff deal. And Democrats also are deeply skeptical of raising the Medicare age.

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