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GOP: White House "fiscal cliff" idea "a joke"

The White House made an offer to House Republicans today to avert the fiscal cliff that Republican aides familiar with the talks panned as "a joke", "an insult" and "a complete break from reality."

A Republican aide familiar with the offer that was presented to House Speaker John Boehner by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and White House congressional liason Rob Nabors confirmed that the $4 trillion package would raise $1.6 trillion in tax revenue up front. Republicans call that number too high and extreme to be offering two weeks into negotiations with a just a month left before the deadline.

In exchange for the added tax revenue, Democrats would give in on $400 billion in spending cuts from entitlement programs like Medicare and an aide said those cuts would not be immediate. Boehner slammed that number right after the meeting at a press conference though he would not say what the number should be.

"Unfortunately many Democrats continue to rule out spending cuts that must be part of any significant agreement that will reduce our deficit" Boehner said.

The package would be structured in such a way that some tax increases would happen now and tax reform would happen next year. Tax rates for the wealthiest two percent would go up immediately.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner at the U.S. Capitol for meetings with congressional leaders November 29, 2012. Alex Wong/Getty Images

The offer, according to Republicans, would also include $50 billion in stimulus spending in the form of infrastructure projects, an extension of unemployment benefits and a extension of the two percent payroll tax break.

The White House would also like to avoid future fights over raising the debt ceiling by taking it out of Congress altogether. While Congress could act to block a debt limit increase, it would not be necessary for Congress to approve one.

One Republican aide expressed outrage that the White House would ask for that with no reforms attached at all. Earlier today, Boehner said, that "there is a lot of things that I have wanted in my life but almost all of them had a price tag attached to them.

"If we're going to talk about the debt limit in this, then there is going to be some price tag associated with it."

Democrats have been equally critical of Republicans in negotiations so far saying that Republicans have not put a real revenue offer on the table since they have not said how much money they'd be willing to put to the deficit through tax revenue.

"Right now, the only thing preventing us from reaching a deal that averts the fiscal cliff and avoids a tax hike on 98 percent of Americans is the refusal of Congressional Republicans to ask the very wealthiest individuals to pay higher tax rates," Deputy White House press secretary Josh Earnest said in a written statement.

"The President has already signed into law over $1 trillion in spending cuts and we remain willing to do tough things to compromise, and it's time for Republicans in Washington to join the chorus of other voices - from the business community to middle class Americans across the country - who support a balanced approach that asks more from the wealthiest Americans."

Despite the appearance of talks breaking down today, Boehner said he's still optimistic a deal can be reached.

The White House's Nabors also seemed determined to keep talking.

"We're going to keep working with folks just like we have been and, you know, we'll make progress."

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