House Speaker John Boehner offers to take debt limit off table

 

Washington

House Speaker John Boehner has offered to push any fight over the federal debt limit off for a year, a concession that would deprive Republicans of leverage in the budget battle but is breathing new life into stalled talks over the year-end "fiscal cliff."

The offer came Friday, according to people in both parties familiar with the talks, as part of the latest effort by Boehner, R-Ohio, to strike a deal with President Barack Obama to replace more than $500 billion in painful deficit-reduction measures set to take effect in January.

With the national debt already bumping up against a $16.4 trillion cap set last year, Congress risks a government default unless it acts to raise the debt ceiling in the next few months. Some Republicans had argued that party leaders should use the threat of default to demand additional spending cuts from Obama.

Boehner's offer signals that he expects a big deal with sufficient savings to meet his demand that any debt limit increase be paired dollar-for-dollar with spending cuts. That would permit him to keep a key vow to his party — and head off a potentially nasty debt-limit fight — at least until the end of next year.

"Our position has not changed," Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said Sunday. "Any debt limit increase would require cuts and reforms of a greater amount."

Boehner's offer also includes a proposal to raise tax rates for millionaires, generating as much as $460 billion over the next decade — about half what Obama has demanded from the wealthy, according to official estimates.

The White House rejected the offer, saying it would raise too little cash to significantly dent record budget deficits and do nothing to extend emergency unemployment benefits into the new year, according to a Democrat familiar with the talks.

But the tax offer was viewed as a breakthrough, the Democrat said. Senior White House officials remained in contact with Boehner's staff throughout the weekend in a sign that serious negotiations had finally begun after weeks of stalemate and partisan posturing.

"Recognizing the importance of raising tax rates is a big, positive and important step," said former White House economic adviser Lawrence Summers, who emphasized that he was not speaking for the Obama administration.

"The evaluation of any deal should depend on how much total revenue is raised, whether adequate demand is maintained to sustain the recovery and whether we are restoring confidence or just marking time until another debt-limit crisis," Summers said.

Boehner and Obama have not spoken directly since the Friday afternoon phone call when Boehner extended his latest offer. With Obama in Newtown, Conn., to attend a Sunday-night service for victims of Friday's elementary school massacre, aides were uncertain when their next meeting would take place.

All told, Boehner's proposal would generate about $2 trillion in savings over the next decade, split equally between new taxes and spending cuts, according to a Republican familiar with the talks. On the tax side, as much as $460 billion would be locked in by letting the George W. Bush-era tax cuts expire on income over $1 million a year.

That would boost the top rate from the current level of 35 percent to 39.6 percent for about 400,000 families in the 2013 tax year. The rest of the tax revenue would come through a rewrite of the tax code next year aimed at limiting deductions and other tax breaks.

The Bush tax cuts would be extended for everyone else under the proposal, averting the biggest of several automatic tax hikes set to rattle the economy in January.

In exchange for the higher rates for millionaires, Boehner is demanding changes to federal health and retirement programs, which are projected to be the biggest drivers of future federal borrowing. Boehner wants $1 trillion in total savings, starting with adoption of a less generous way of calculating inflation that would save $200 billion over the next decade — about two-thirds of it by reducing Social Security cost-of-living adjustments.

Obama has offered $600 billion in spending cuts, with $350 billion coming from health programs and none from Social Security. Many congressional Democrats adamantly oppose dragging the program into the year-end talks.

Still, if Republicans make an offer on higher tax revenue that Democrats consider big enough, senior Democrats have signaled that they are open to the change in how inflation is calculated for entitlement programs, known as chained CPI.

The tax issue also remains problematic. Obama has called for the Bush tax cuts to expire for income over $250,000 a year, a move that would raise about $830 billion over the next decade, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation. He also wants higher taxes on inherited estates and new limits on tax breaks for the wealthy, to bring total new taxes to $1.6 trillion.

White House officials last week dropped their tax demand to $1.4 trillion and may be willing to go lower, Democrats said. But setting the income threshold for tax rate hikes at $1 million, as Boehner proposed, would sacrifice too much money, they said. Democrats argue that a threshold of $375,000 or even $500,000 would be more appropriate.

If a pact were reached, people in both parties say it likely would include a postponement of $100 billion in automatic spending cuts from the Pentagon and other agency budgets next year.

With many lawmakers still hoping for a resolution by Christmas, people close to the talks cautioned that much work remains to be done before Obama and Boehner could seal a deal.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
The data shows that the number of “unlawfully” large infant classes has doubled in the last 12 months alone
i100Mike Stuchbery, a teacher in Great Yarmouth, said he received abuse
Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
Sport
Rio Ferdinand returns for QPR
sportRio Ferdinand returns from his three-game suspension today
News
The Speaker of the House will takes his turn as guest editor of the Today programme
arts + ents
News
people

Watch the spoof Thanksgiving segment filmed for Live!
Sport
Billy Twelvetrees will start for England against Australia tomorrow with Owen Farrell dropping to the bench
rugbyEngland need a victory against Australia today
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of The Guest Cat – expect to see it everywhere
books
Sport
Tyson Fury poses outside the Imperial War Museum in south London ahead of his fight against Dereck Chisora
boxingAll British heavyweight clash gets underway on Saturday night
News
i100 Charity collates series of videos that show acts of kindness to animals
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Opilio Recruitment: QA Automation Engineer

£30k - 38k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: An award-winning consume...

Opilio Recruitment: UX & Design Specialist

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Publishing Application Support Analyst

£30k - 35k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We’re currently re...

Opilio Recruitment: Digital Marketing Manager

£35k - 45k per year + benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game