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WH, Boehner trade new "fiscal cliff" proposals

Updated 6:57 p.m. Eastern Time

The White House and House Speaker John Boehner have traded a second round of proposals to address the so-called "fiscal cliff," CBS News has learned.

According to a White House official, the White House made an offer Monday and Republicans counter-offered Tuesday. The official added that President Obama and Boehner spoke by telephone this evening, though no details were provided.

The latest offer from the White House included $1.4 trillion in new revenue, down from its initial request of $1.6 trillion. One senior GOP House source told CBS News that this level of revenue is no more acceptable than the White House's first offer, casting it as laughable.

In response to the new White House proposal, Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said, "We sent the White House a counter-offer that would achieve tax and entitlement reform to solve our looming debt crisis and create more American jobs."

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"As the Speaker said today, we're still waiting for the White House to identify what spending cuts the president is willing to make as part of the 'balanced approach' he promised the American people," Steel continued. "The longer the White House slow-walks this process, the closer our economy gets to the fiscal cliff."

Boehner today chastised Mr. Obama for purportedly failing to identify the spending cuts he would accept in a deal to avert the "cliff," a series of spending cuts and tax increases set to kick in next year. Boehner's remarks followed a meeting with the president at the White House on Sunday. "It was a nice meeting, it was cordial," Boehner said, "but we're still waiting for the White House to identify what spending cuts the president is willing to make as part of the balanced approach that he promised the American people."

A Capitol Hill Republican source tells CBS News that Boehner's remarks were made after receiving the second White House offer but before he presented the GOP counter-offer.

The White House was quick to respond to Boehner, pointing out that Mr. Obama has provided specific spending cuts in his proposed budget. White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer wrote on Twitter, "The irony of this is that the White House offer had very specific cuts, the GOP counteroffer had almost none."

White House spokesman Jay Carney added later, "It is simply uncontestable we have put forward a plan on spending cuts."

The second round of proposals demonstrates that behind-the-scene talks have made at least some progress, even as both sides accuse each other of holding up negotiations and failing to provide specific offers.

The White House, to prove it has made specific spending cut proposals, points to the suggestions on pages 17-45 of Mr. Obama's September 2011 Growth and Deficit Reduction Proposal. Those cuts, the White House contends, would make up the $600 billion in cuts the White House offered in its initial "fiscal cliff" proposal. In his public remarks, the president has largely focused on the revenue portion of his proposal, which would be achieved in part by raising income tax rates on the wealthiest Americans.

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That hasn't stopped Republicans, however, from casting the president's plan as unclear. "When it came to offering his idea of a balanced approach, the president was vague about cuts but very specific in his request for more government spending," Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said today.

House Republicans, meanwhile, in their initial offer asked for $800 billion in new revenue -- achieved through tax reform, not tax cuts -- and $1.2 trillion in spending cuts. Senate Majority leader Harry Reid today railed against Republicans for putting forward a plan that was "all generalizations."

"If Republicans want more spending cuts, tell us what you want, that's what I say to them," he said. "We can't read your minds."

House Republicans have countered this in the past with the fact that they've passed a bill to avert part of the "cliff" by cutting food stamps, requiring federal workers to pay more into their pensions and other domestic cuts. Moreover, they too have proposals in their budget to reform entitlements and cut spending.

Asked on ABC News Tuesday if the nation would go over the "fiscal cliff," Mr. Obama said he remains optimistic that a deal will get done. He said he is "confident" that Republicans will not hold a tax cut for the middle class "hostage" to keep tax rates from increasing on the highest earners. He added that while a deal is reachable, "time is running short."

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