Updated: 2:22 p.m. ET
House Speaker John Boehner confirmed today what many in Washington have feared for days: When it comes to negotiations over the looming "fiscal cliff," he says, "there's a stalemate. Let's not kid ourselves."
Boehner, speaking to reporters at a press conference in response to , continued an ongoing GOP assault of the White House's proposal to avoid the so-called "cliff," a combination of tax hikes and spending cuts that is set to kick in at the end of the year.
"It was not a serious proposal," Boehner said, of the White House's plan, which Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and White House congressional liaison Rob Nabors put forth yesterday in meetings with lawmakers on Capitol Hill. "Right now we're almost nowhere."
The proposal would have reduced the deficit by $4 trillion over 10 years, created $1.6 trillion in revenue from higher taxes on households earning more than $250,000 per year, cut entitlement programs by $400 billion, and allocated $50 billion in stimulus spending next year for infrastructure projects. House Republicans swiftly it yesterday, and Republican aides familiar with the talks"an insult" and "a complete break from reality."
The speaker, who has now publicly rejected the plan two days in a row, reiterated remarks he made the day after the presidential election, wherein he said he was willing to put increases in revenue on the table but would not increase tax rates. He hammered the White House for taking "three weeks" to respond to his offer with a plan that, in his view, "wasn't a serious one."
Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., echoed that sentiment in remarks earlier in the day: "We don't want to increase tax rates. We're not going to increase tax rates," he said. "This is not a game. We're not interested in playing rope-a-dope. We're interested in trying to solve the problems of the American people so that we don't see taxes go up on anybody, so that we can engage in tax reform, get this economy going again. We're not playing a game. We're being serious. That offer yesterday was simply not serious."
Many Democrats dismissed Boehner's post-election remarks, arguing that his offer provided no details with regard to how the math worked out -- the same argument they made during the Republican presidential campaign, when Romney offered up a similar proposal to Boehner's. Asked about specific ways to increase revenues without raising taxes, the speaker pointed to recent Republican budgets.
"There are plenty specific proposals," he said. "There's a lot from the conversations that we've had to inform almost anybody [about] the kind of proposals we're looking for."
Even as Boehner digs his heels in on the issue of tax hikes, top Democrats -- including the president -- are signaling a parallel refusal to cave with regard to the matter: Addressing workers at the Rodon Group factory in Pennsylvania this morning, the president accused "just a handful of Republicans in Congress" of holding middle class tax cuts hostage "simply because they don't want tax rates on upper income folks to go up."
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., leveled a similar attack in a Friday press briefing with reporters.
"The clock is ticking. The year is ending... We're calling upon the Republican leadership in the House to bring this legislation to the floor next week," she said. "We believe that not doing that would be holding middle-income tax cuts hostage to tax cuts for the rich."
In the ongoing battle over whether or not to let Bush-era tax cuts for the nation's top earners expire, Pelosi reiterated the Democratic argument that Mr. Obama, who ran for re-election on the position that those cuts should expire, has a mandate to carry out his agenda.
"Elections have consequences," she said. "He made it very clear that he was supporting a tax cut for the middle-class, that he wanted the expiration of the tax cuts for the high-end, and the American people know that. They voted for him."
House Republicans, however, are offering up a different logic: "The president won his re-election, we won our re-election," said Cantor. "We have to now come together."