House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said Friday there has been "no progress" on talks to avert the year-end fiscal cliff, despite a phone call with President Obama Wednesday that Boehner termed "pleasant."
"This isn't a progress report," he told reporters at a week-ending news conference, "because there’s no progress to report."
He accused Obama of wasting another week as time ticks down to get a deal to prevent a combination of tax increases and spending cuts at the end of this month. His phone call with the president, as well as talks between staffs for the two men on Thursday, amounted to "more of the same," Boehner said.
"It’s time for the president, if he’s serious, to come back to us with a counter offer," Boehner said, noting that Obama has rejected a $2.2 trillion deficit reduction package that Boehner proposed on Monday.
But Boehner also declined to rule out the idea of allowing tax rates to rise for the nation's wealthiest households. He has repeatedly said he would sign on to a deal that included new tax revenues but said he wanted to get those dollars through capping deductions and closing loopholes instead of by increasing tax rates.
Obama has said the top marginal income tax rate must be allowed to rise from 35 percent. The president has suggested he could strike a deal allowing the top rate to rise -- but not all the way to 39.6 percent, where it was during the administration of President Bill Clinton and where it will rise in January without congressional action.
Asked if there was a way to allow the top rate to increase without hurting small businesses -- the Republican critique of such an idea -- Boehner said: "There are a lot of things that are possible to put the revenue that the president seeks on the table."
But, he added, "none of it is going to be possible if the president insists" on a "my way or the highway" bargaining stance.
After Boehner spoke to reporters, however, his office released a statement from him reiterated his opposition to raising tax rates. “As I've said many, many, many times: I oppose tax rate increases because tax rate increases cost American jobs," Boehner said in the statement. "That has not changed, and will not change.”