The Washington Post

Obama: GOP ‘fiscal cliff’ offer ‘out of balance’

President Obama said Tuesday that there is still a chance that the White House and Congress can reach a deal to avert the fiscal cliff, but he warned that the latest offer from House Republicans’ remains “out of balance.”

In his first one-on-one interview since his reelection, Obama told Bloomberg TV that he remains firmly committed to his demand that the GOP agree to raise tax rates on the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans.

“It’s not me being stubborn, not me being partisan; it’s just a matter of math,” Obama said during the interview in the White House. He said that the Republican proposal to raise $800 billion in new tax revenue by closing some loopholes and eliminating some deductions would not be enough to reach his goal of up to $1.6 trillion.

“What I’m going to need, what the country needs, what the business community needs to get to where we need to be is the acknowledgement that folks like me can afford to pay a little higher rate,” Obama said.

Obama insisted that he remains flexible and open to looking at new ideas to solve the fiscal cliff crisis – a mix of tax hikes and mandatory spending cuts set to take effect at the end of the year that some economists have warned could jolt the nation into recession.

The president’s remarks came a day after House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) offered the House GOP’s latest proposal, which also calls for slicing $600 billion from federal health programs, in part by increasing the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67, and saving $200 billion by applying a less generous measure of inflation to all federal programs, including Social Security benefits, according to GOP aides.

Obama has called for Congress to extend the George W. Bush-era tax cuts for families earning less than $250,000 a year, but allow them to expire for those who earn more. During the Bloomberg interview, he reiterated his position that the White House and Congress could address broader tax reform next year and potentially lower some rates for wealthier Americans at that time.

“I’m not doing this to punish success or go after folks because they are wealthy,” Obama said of his rejection of the GOP plan. “It’s the simple proposition that you can’t raise enough revenue. And if you do not raise enough revenue by closing loopholes and deductions, it’s going to be the middle-class families that make up the difference. And that would be bad for business.”

Bloomberg reporter Juliana Goldman asked Obama if he would consider bringing a business executive into his administration to help instill confidence in the private sector.

Obama said he would like to do so but that successful business leaders are fearful of exposing themselves to the highly partisan and drawn out confirmation process.

That process “has become so miserable… that a lot of folks are shying away,” the president said.

 Boehner responded to Obama's Bloomberg comments by asking for a new counter-proposal.

"If the President really wants to avoid sending the economy over the fiscal cliff, he has done nothing to demonstrate it," the House Republican leader said in a statement. "With our latest offer we have demonstrated there is a middle ground solution that can cut spending and bring in revenue without hurting American small businesses. The President now has an obligation to respond with a proposal that does the same and can pass both chambers of Congress."

David Nakamura covers the White House. He has previously covered sports, education and city government and reported from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Japan.

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