WASHINGTON — Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner presented a tentative offer from the administration to congressional leaders Thursday to avert the fiscal cliff — but the plan has so far received a chilly reception from Republicans.
The offer, the details of which were reported by The New York Times on Thursday, proposes $1.6 trillion in tax hikes over ten years, roughly $400 billion in cuts to entitlement programs such as Medicare, and would withdraw Congress’ power to control increases to the federal debt limit.
Of the latter provision, Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch told BuzzFeed, “I don’t think anybody will agree to that.”
“We should come up with an alternative to the debt ceiling,” he added, but declined to elaborate.
President Barack Obama has expressed his intent to sign legislation to avert the fiscal cliff only if Congress raises the debt ceiling as part of the package. That would prevent a possible reprise of last summer’s infamous debt-limit fight when the nation needs to increase its debt limit again in February or March.
Sen. John Cornyn, the newly elected Republican whip, said raising the debt limit as part of an eventual fiscal cliff deal would “make sense.”
But, he said, echoing earlier remarks from House Speaker John Boehner, the administration’s offer as it stands is “totally inadequate.”
“I don’t think he’s serious,” Cornyn said. “I’m inclined to believe they likely want to run off the cliff, and I hope that’s wrong. But I don’t see the actions of a serious negotiator or a leader.”
Although Republicans have clamored for a concrete proposal from Democrats and the White House in particular, Cornyn suggested the administration’s initial offer will not satisfy his party. That the administration would attempt to take away Congress’ authority over debt-limit increases, Cornyn said, is further proof that the proposal is “a nonstarter.”
“We’ve now established the precedent that, every time the debt ceiling is raised, we reduce spending by an equal or larger amount,” he said. “That’s important leverage we have to rein in spending, and obviously the administration wants no constraint on their ability to spend, and spend, and spend.”