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US Congress & The Legislative Branch Discuss Boehner opens door to tax hikes, shifts fiscal cliff talks at the Political Forums; Well Bonner dropped a few hang ups, will Obama do the same? Or will the hardcore Progressives Dems demand more ...

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Old 12-17-2012, 01:24 PM
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Default Boehner opens door to tax hikes, shifts fiscal cliff talks

Well Bonner dropped a few hang ups, will Obama do the same? Or will the hardcore Progressives Dems demand more and offer less?

.Boehner opens door to tax hikes, shifts fiscal cliff talks

By David Lawder and Mark Felsenthal | Reuters – 3 hrs ago.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The first real movement in the "fiscal cliff" talks began on Sunday, with Republican House Speaker John Boehner edging slightly closer to President Barack Obama's key demands as they try to avert the steep tax hikes and spending cuts set to take effect unless Congress intervenes by December 31.

But Boehner's new positions, on tax rates and the total amount of new revenue to be included in a deficit-reduction deal, were still far from those held by Obama.

And the two sides have yet to make headway on tough issues such as entitlements, with the Republicans wanting far more than Democrats are likely to tolerate in cuts to Medicaid and Medicare, the government healthcare programs for the poor and seniors.

Sources familiar with the Obama-Boehner talks confirmed that Boehner proposed extending low tax rates for everyone who has earned less than $1 million, and rates would rise for wages above that. Obama wants that threshold set at $250,000.

Under current law, the 35 percent top tax rate is scheduled to expire on January 1, and would automatically go to 39.6 percent - where it was during the Clinton administration.

Boehner also has increased to $1 trillion his figure for total revenue, compared to Obama's figure of $1.4 trillion. The balance of a 10-year deficit-reduction plan would come from spending cuts.

The White House has not accepted the Boehner proposals.

The Boehner offer to accept a tax rate increase for the wealthiest Americans knocks down a key Republican road block to a deal resolving the year-end "fiscal cliff."

The question now boils down to what President Barack Obama offers in return. Such major questions, still unanswered so close to the end of the year suggest, however, that no spending and tax agreement is imminent.

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Boehner conditioned his tax rate increase offer on Obama's agreement to cuts in social program spending, often called entitlements.

Many Republican lawmakers want to raise the eligibility age for Medicare to 67 from 65. They also want to link Medicare to the income of recipients, making wealthier retirees pay more for their care.

Currently, Medicare does have some means testing, charging higher premiums for coverage of doctors visits and prescription drugs to individuals earning more than $85,000 and married couples earning more than $170,000. Only about 5 percent of recipients pay these higher premiums.

Thus far, Obama has offered only about $400 billion in 10-year entitlement savings, mostly through small adjustments in reining in health care costs - not fundamental changes such as raising the eligibility age.

And just as Boehner faces opposition in his own party to raising any tax rates, Obama faces opposition to cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security from Democrats, who pledged in election campaigns they would protect these programs.

A major bloc of congressional Democrats has already signaled they will not accept major cutbacks in Medicare as part of any fiscal cliff deal.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and Maryland Representative Chris Van Hollen of Maryland are among the high ranking Democrats in the House who have come out forcefully in recent days against raising the age for eligibility for Medicare to 67 years of age.

"Given the level of savings that is being talked about from Medicare, you can't get it all from providers and drug makers," said Paul Heldman, an analyst at Potomac Research, which tracks Washington policy for investors.

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Boehner opens door to tax hikes, shifts fiscal cliff talks - Yahoo! News


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