Officials have said this week that private talks between the President and top Congressional leaders to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff are accelerating. House Speaker John Boehner has plans for top Republicans to meet with Erskine Bowles – a chief of staff in the Bill Clinton Administration. According to GOP aides – Bowles offered a debt-reduction plan last fall that lined up with Republican principles. The plan called for an overhaul of the tax code and significant spending cuts – including major Medicare changes. Boehner says people in both parties agree a balanced approach is needed to deal with the deficit and debt – and to help the economy create jobs. The Speaker expresses a need to avert the fiscal cliff without tax hikes that target small businesses and cost jobs.
Some Republicans – including Senate Ag Committee member Saxby Chambliss – have recently voiced support for a deal that includes additional tax revenue. But there remains a wide gap between the President and Republicans on taxes and changes to federal retirement programs. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney did say this week that the President believes and understands that in order to achieve a deal – a compromise – everybody has to make some tough choices.