HATFIELD, Pa. -- President Barack Obama argued yesterday that allowing taxes to rise for the middle class would amount to a "lump of coal" for Christmas, while Republican House Speaker John Boehner declared that negotiations to avoid the looming "fiscal cliff" are going "almost nowhere."
Obama took his case to an audience in a Philadelphia suburb, saying that this move would present a "Scrooge Christmas" for millions of wage earners. Speaking at a toy factory, the president said Republicans should extend existing Bush-era tax rates for households earning $250,000 or less, while allowing increases to kick in for the wealthy.
On Capitol Hill, Boehner argued that Obama's latest offer -- to raise revenue by $1.6 trillion over the next decade -- would be a "crippling blow" to an economy that is still struggling to find its footing. The Ohio Republican told reporters he would continue working with Obama to avoid hundreds of billions in tax increases and spending cuts that will take effect beginning in January if Washington doesn't act to stop it, but gave a gloomy assessment of the talks so far.
"There's a stalemate. Let's not kid ourselves," Boehner said. "Right now, we're almost nowhere."
Obama's speech came a day after his administration proposed $1.6 trillion in new taxes, new spending for the unemployed and struggling homeowners and savings of about $400 billion in entitlement programs such as Medicare. The proposal amounts to requests already in Obama's fiscal 2013 budget plan. Republicans rejected the offer as unreasonable.
Obama said he believed both parties "can and will work together" to reach an agreement. "In Washington, nothing's easy so there is going to be some prolonged negotiations and all of us are going to have to get out of our comfort zones to make that happen," he said.
White House officials hoped yesterday's trip would build momentum for the president's case, even as Republicans describe the outing as an irritant. The trip was part of a dual White House strategy of having the president's team meet with members of Congress while Obama travels the country to pressure Congress to act.
Republicans have said they are open to new tax revenue but not higher rates.
Obama spoke at the Rodon Group manufacturing facility, showcasing the company as an example of a business that depends on middle-class consumers during the holiday season. The company manufactures parts for K'NEX Brands, a construction toy company whose products include Tinkertoy, K'NEX Building Sets and Angry Birds Building Sets.