As clock ticks, Boehner says he's ready to bargain again

  • Updated: December 22, 2012 - 7:16 PM

House Speaker John Boehner on Saturday said he's ready to return to the bargaining table to avert the fiscal cliff, while President Obama made no mention of the standoff in his weekly address.

With the president traveling to Hawaii for his annual holiday break, Boehner said the president needs to be more flexible to reach an agreement.

"Of course, hope springs eternal, and I know we have it in use to come together and do the right thing," said the Ohio Republican, who delivered the party's weekly radio address. "Because of the political divide in the country, because of the divide here in Washington, trying to bridge these differences has been difficult. If it were easy, I guarantee you this would have been done decades before."

In his weekly speech, Obama thanked U.S. troops and their families for their service to the country. He also mentioned families affected by the massacre of 20 elementary-school children in Newtown, Conn.

Scaling back plans for a wide budget pact with Republicans, Obama on Friday presented a fresh proposal to extend tax cuts for most Americans and prevent some budget cuts.

The president also said Congress should extend jobless benefits for about 2 million people. Obama said on Friday that he remains committed to working toward a goal of longer-term deficit reduction to reduce chronic trillion-dollar deficits while keeping tax rates in place for nearly everyone.

It's clear, however, that there's great resistance in GOP ranks to forging a bargain with Obama along the lines of a possible agreement that almost seemed at hand just a few days ago: tax hikes at or just over $1 trillion over 10 years, matched by comparable cuts to federal health care programs, Social Security benefits and across federal agency operating budgets.

"Even though Democrats and Republicans are arguing about whether those rates should go up for the wealthiest individuals, all of us -- every single one of us -- agrees that tax rates shouldn't go up for the other 98 percent of Americans," Obama said, citing statistics associated with his promise to protect household income under $250,000 from higher tax rates.

Neither the House nor the Senate is expected to meet again until after Christmas. But the clock is still ticking with less than eight days left before mandatory tax hikes and spending cuts kick in.

ASSOCIATED PRESS, MCCLATCHY NEWS SERVICE

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