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Boehner: Spending is the problem with the debt

Despite hopes among some that he would play a prominent role in the ongoing talks to avert a "fiscal cliff," Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has been mostly missing from public discussions of the debate. But his visual aids reemerged Thursday morning.

House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) made use of a Ryan-authored chart to demonstrate the yawning gap in government spending and tax revenue that is keeping both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue from fashioning an agreement.

As Boehner motioned to the graph, he noted that President Obama's call for $1.4 trillion in taxes "does nothing to solve the spending problem that our country has."

"Republicans want to solve this problem by getting the spending line down. The president wants to pretend [it] isn’t a problem. That’s why we don’t have an agreement," Boehner told reporters.

The House Republican leader stood firm in his conference's opposition to tax increases, repeating what many in the GOP often say, that: "Raising tax rates will hurt small businesses at a time when we're expecting small businesses to be the engine of job creation in America."

Boehner also dodged a question about whether he is facing difficulty crafting legislation to avert the fiscal cliff that could pass the House while also maintaining his leadership of the chamber.

"I’m not concerned about my job as Speaker," he said. "What I’m concerned about is doing the right thing for our kids and grandkids. If we don’t fix this spending problem, their future is going to be rather bleak.

Boehner's comments came a day after a new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows a majority of Americans -- and large numbers of conservatives -- disapprove of his handling of the fiscal negotiations thus far. Showing once again the political difficulty Boehner faces in cutting a deal with Obama, dozens of conservative leaders penned an open letter to House Republicans Thursday warning them not to cave to Democratic demands to raise tax rates on the wealthy in a deal to avert the fiscal cliff or otherwise compromise on leading conservative issues with Democrats.

Ed O’Keefe is covering the 2016 presidential campaign, with a focus on Jeb Bush and other Republican candidates. He's covered presidential and congressional politics since 2008. Off the trail, he's covered Capitol Hill, federal agencies and the federal workforce, and spent a brief time covering the war in Iraq.

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