Movement seen in ‘fiscal cliff’ talks

Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Big differences remain, but there is finally movement in long-stalled talks on avoiding the “fiscal cliff.”

House Speaker John Boehner is offering $1 trillion in higher tax revenue over 10 years and an increase in the top tax rate on people making more than $1 million a year. He’s also offering a large enough extension in the government’s borrowing cap to fund the government for one year before the issue must be revisited — conditioned on Obama agreeing to the $1 trillion in cuts.

The offer, made Friday after a long impasse between Boehner, R-Ohio, and President Barack Obama, calls for about $450 billion in revenue from increasing the top rate on million-dollar-plus income from 35 percent to the Clinton-era rate of 39.6 percent.

The additional revenue would be collected through a rewrite of the tax code next year and by slowing the inflation adjustments made to tax brackets.

In return, Boehner is asking for $1 trillion in spending cuts from government benefit programs like Medicare. Those cuts would defer most of a painful set of across-the-board spending cuts set to slash many domestic programs and the Pentagon budget by 8-9 percent, starting in January.

Boehner also continues to press for a less generous inflation adjustment for Social Security benefits, a move endorsed by many budget hawks. Obama and Democrats on last year’s deficit “supercommittee” endorsed the idea in offers made last year, but they’re more reluctant now.

Democrats rejected the offer and some say an increase in the Medicare eligibility age is a non-starter. They are also pressing for extended jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed.

Boehner’s proposal was described by officials familiar with it. They required anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks.

The movement comes as an increasing number of Republicans have called for a tactical retreat that would hand Obama a victory on his longstanding campaign promise to raise taxes on households making more than $250,000 a year. That increase, combined with an increase in the tax rate on investment income from 15 to 20 percent, would raise about $800 billion in tax revenue over a decade.

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