Back-and-forth continues over "fiscal cliff"
(CBS News) WASHINGTON - We are just over three weeks away from falling over the so-called "fiscal cliff" -- that combination of tax increases and deep federal spending cuts. And the back and forth shows no signs of letting up between the White House and the Republicans in Congress.
In his Saturday weekly address, President Obama signaled that he is open to making cuts on programs like Medicare and Medicaid -- if Republicans agree to raise tax rates for the rich.
"I'm willing to find ways to bring down the cost of health care without hurting seniors and other Americans who depend on it," said the president. "And I'm willing to make more entitlement spending cuts on top of the $1 trillion dollars in cuts I signed into law last year."
His remarks came one day after House Speaker John Boehner announced the talks were stalled.
"This isn't a progress report because there's no progress to report," he said.
His Democratic counterpart, Nancy Pelosi, blamed Boehner for the stalemate.
"What they offered in return was an empty letter lacking in specifics," she said.
Such is the state of negotiations 23 days before the deadline when federal income tax rates will revert to higher Clinton-era levels. A two-percent payroll tax cut will expire. And long-term unemployment benefits will dry up for over 2 million Americans who had been out of work for six months or more.
On Friday, Boehner did not rule out a compromise on a tax hike for top earners, somewhere between today's 35 percent and the Clinton-era 39.6 percent.
"There are a lot of things that are possible to put the revenue that the president seeks on the table," he said.
Even if the two sides are making more progress behind the scenes, no one expects them to admit it until the last minute. The Office of Management and Budget has asked all federal agencies to produce a detailed list of possible cuts just in case there is no deal.
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