The White House and Republican US lawmakers have made no headway in crucial talks on avoiding the so-called “fiscal cliff” of rising taxes and huge spending cuts, House Speaker John Boehner warned Thursday.
“No substantive progress has been made in the talks between the White House and the House (of Representatives) over the last two weeks,” Boehner told reporters.
“Despite the claims the president supports a balanced approach, the Democrats have yet to get serious about real spending cuts.”
If no deal is reached before the end of the year, a poison pill of tax hikes and massive spending cuts, including slashes to the military, comes into effect with potentially catastrophic effects for the fragile US economy.
Republicans Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell met with President Barack Obama and Democratic congressional leaders — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi — two weeks ago in the aftermath of the president’s re-election victory.
The mood coming out of that meeting was one of confidence, with Boehner saying Republicans were willing to put revenues on the table. But his tone Thursday was markedly different.
“Listen, this is not a game. Jobs are on the line, the American economy is on the line, and this is a moment for adult leadership,” he said.
Boehner’s negative assessment followed his morning meeting with Obama’s point man on the fiscal negotiations, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.
Boehner said the closed-door meeting was “frank and direct,” but the top Republican suggested Geithner failed to present any “specific plan for cutting spending.”
“Without spending cuts and entitlement reforms, it’s going to be impossible to address our country’s debt crisis, and get our economy going again and to create jobs,” Boehner said.
“So right now, all eyes are on the White House,” he added.
“It’s time for the president, and congressional Democrats, to tell the American people what spending cuts they’re really willing to make.”
US stocks, which had been up around 0.5 percent in morning trade, fell immediately on Boehner’s remarks, putting the S&P 500 index back near the break-even level around 1,410.
Share prices rebounded shortly afterwards, and the index pushed back to near 1,416.