WASHINGTON — Republicans and Democrats spent Thursday trading shots over who is to blame for a lack of progress in talks to avert the fiscal cliff, with neither side appearing ready to make serious concessions this early in the process.
With Christmas still several weeks away, little substantive progress is expected in the negotiations, and both sides will continue to snipe at each other as the deadline approaches.
In dueling press conferences, Speaker John Boehner, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Democratic leaders all sought to blame each other or the president for the lack of progress, while avoiding giving any details of what concessions they may be willing to make.
“Over the past year and a half, I’ve talked to the president about many of them,” Boehner said of spending cuts. “We know what the menu is. What we don’t know is what the White House is willing to do.”
“I’m not going to get into the details,” Boehner added, “but it’s very clear what kind of spending cuts need to occur.”
Boehner spoke with the president on the phone Wednesday night and met in his Capitol office Thursday with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, but a meeting among the president and congressional leaders has not been held since prior to Thanksgiving.
Among the sticking points is whether to raise the debt limit as part of the fiscal cliff legislation or to hold off on that debate until the last minute, in February or March.
On Thursday, Boehner rejected Obama’s demand that the debt ceiling increase be included in the deal without any additional reductions in spending.
“Any increase in the debt limit has to be accompanied by spending reductions that meet or exceed it,” Boehner said.
When asked about Boehner’s position, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid fired back: “I don’t understand his brain. You’ll have to ask him.”
“Republicans know where we stand. We’ve said it, we’ve said it, we’ve said it,” Reid said, adding that Democrats are “still waiting for a serious offer from Republicans … [it’s] time for Republicans to move past this happy talk about revenues” and provide details on spending cuts.
“We have gone on record to make cuts of $1 trillion, but there has to be revenue to inspire confidence in the markets, to inspire confidence in consumers and confidence to grow our economy,” Pelosi echoed in a press conference with House Democratic leaders.
“$1.5 trillion in cuts is a lot of money,” she added. “If you go beyond that, you’re talking about hurting our infrastructure.”
Instead, Democrats contended, the onus of responsibility would lie with Boehner and House Republicans to meet in the middle and forge a viable compromise as talks move forward.
“There comes a point when he needs to look beyond his caucus to the House and the nation,” Majority Whip Dick Durbin said of Boehner, lashing out at the GOP leader for what Durbin views as an effort by Boehner to protect his conservative wing.
“I don’t want to hear about all the pain in the Tea Party wing of his party.”