A day after meeting House Speaker John Boehner face-to-face for the first time in more than one year, President Barack Obama, who has been insisting on tax hike for the wealthiest Americans to resolve the "fiscal cliff," said on Monday he is willing to compromise, but only "a little bit."
"We can do more than just extend middle-class tax cuts. I've said I will work with Republicans on a plan for economic growth, job creation, and reducing our deficits. And that has some compromise between Democrats and Republicans," CBS News quoted Obama as saying in a campaign-like speech at the Daimler Detroit Diesel factory in Michigan on Monday.
"I understand people have a lot of different views. I'm willing to compromise a little bit," the president added. "[W]hen you put it all together, what you need is a package that keeps taxes where they are for middle-class families; we make some tough spending cuts on things that we don't need; and then we ask the wealthiest Americans to pay a slightly higher tax rate."
Obama has made a few other public appearances recently as a public-relations effort to generate momentum behind the White House plan to avoid the "fiscal cliff," which refers to the more than $500 billion in automatic tax hikes and spending cuts set to hit in January.
However, Republicans say the plan they offered last week, rejecting the call for tax hike for the wealthiest, remains the latest offer.
"The Republican offer made last week remains the Republican offer, and we continue to wait for the president to identify the spending cuts he's willing to make as part of the 'balanced' approach he promised the American people," Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said in a statement on Monday.
The outcome of Sunday's meeting between Obama and Boehner at the White House is not known given that both sides are not willing to speak about it. However, the silence is being seen by some as a sign of serious negotiations.
The Republican plan would generate $2.2 trillion in new savings over the next decade, according to CNN. It includes $800 billion in new revenues that would be achieved through comprehensive tax reform, as opposed to $1.6 trillion being sought by Obama.
Republicans are proposing additional revenue from tax reform by measures such as eliminating some deductions and loopholes. Democrats, on the other hand, want the higher tax rates on income over $250,000 for families as part of the equation.
Boehner is seeking savings also from entitlement programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid totaling another $800 billion. But the White House has proposed half that amount in reduced entitlement costs excluding Social Security.
"...I'm not going to have a situation where the wealthiest among us, including folks like me, get to keep all our tax breaks, and then we're asking students to pay higher student loans," Obama said in Michigan on Monday. "Or suddenly, a school doesn't have schoolbooks because the school district couldn't afford it. Or some family that has a disabled kid isn't getting the help that they need through Medicaid."
On Friday, Boehner accused Obama of wasting another week. "When it comes to the fiscal cliff that's threatening our economy and threatening jobs, the White House has wasted another week," NBC quoted Boehner as telling reporters. "This isn't a progress report because there's no progress to report." If the president was serious, he should "come back to us with a counteroffer. When is he going to take a step towards us?" he added.