Obama, Boehner talk 'fiscal cliff'

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Despite an intensifying pace, little progress is being reported in talks on averting automatic spending cuts and tax increases that economists fear could send the U.S. economy off a “fiscal cliff.”

House Speaker John Boehner and President Barack Obama spoke on the phone twice Tuesday, a day after the president offered to reduce his initial demand for $1.6 trillion in higher tax revenue over a decade to $1.4 trillion. But Obama continued to insist that much of the revenue come from raising top tax rates on the wealthy.

Boehner countered later Tuesday with another offer that aides to the Ohio Republican said stuck close to a document delivered to the White House a week ago. A top White House aide, Rob Nabors, came to the Capitol to respond.

“There were some offers that were exchanged back and forth yesterday and the president and I had pretty frank conversations about just how far apart we are,” Boehner said today after a closed-door meeting with fellow Republicans in which he advised them not to make plans for the week after Christmas.

Leading lawmakers expressed pessimism that a deal was close, despite increasing angst about a Dec. 31 deadline to stop the expiration of Bush-era tax cuts and separate across-the-board spending cuts that are the result of Washington’s failure to complete a deficit-reduction deal last year.

“I think it’s getting worse, not better,” House GOP Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said.

The Boehner camp again said it’s up to the White House to proffer additional spending cuts to programs like Medicare. The White House countered that Republicans still need to cave on raising tax rates for the rich.

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