Only twenty days remain until the U.S. falls over the fiscal cliff, but new reports this morning from the White House are signaling potential progress toward averting the crisis. The White House released a statement confirming that House Speaker John Boehner and President Obama met in person at the White House yesterday. Both Boehner and Obama also released statements saying they would not comment specifically on what was discussed, but both agree "the lines of communication remain open." Whether this means a deal is on the horizon is still in question.
Newark Mayor Cory Booker (D-NJ) thinks that failing to renew the tax cuts for the middle class would create significant economic challenges to those who are already struggling, such as residents across his state. "This is a time in our fragile economy that we cannot have a goverment that is – especially Republicans – holding hostage all of this country," he says. "It's going to really hurt people."
"We saw what happened the last time we had a conflict like this around the debt ceiling debate. This debate ground on, and unfortunately, consumer confidence dipped, the economy hurt, credit was downgraded...I'm really hoping we learned a lesson from this," he says.
For the first time in over three weeks, President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner looked each other in the eye and actually had a conversation! This meeting comes at a very important time because in just 22 days Americans face severe tax hikes and spending cuts unless these two leaders can find a way to compromise. Neither side would discuss specifics but after yesterday's white house meeting a spokesman for the president said – quote – "the lines of communication remain open." This morning, Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA) joins “Starting Point” to weigh in on the fiscal cliff and the recent meeting between the president and Speaker Boehner.
Chu says she, “was encouraged to see the meeting between Speaker Boehner and President Obama” and she “really feels a deal has to be made.” She adds “a deal is to be made that would benefit the people if it were done earlier.”
Chu says, “we need discussion right now…and we need to have a discussion where we could have sensible solutions with regard to the safety net programs as well as the tax cuts.”
On the topic of what democrats will bring to the table Chu says, “Something that should have been done a while ago” is a “ change to Medicare in which we can actually negotiate for drug prices. After all we do it for Medicaid. Why can’t we do it for Medicare? That would be a big savings to the Medicare program.”
For the first time in a week, President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner spoke about the fiscal cliff over the phone, but there’s no word of progress made or future talks planned with only twenty-six days to go before the fiscal cliff.
Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-OH), who is a member of the Appropriations Committee, believes that there’s a growing sense in the Republican party that “the President has won this round relative to the rates” but they still need to sit down and work out the spending part of the deal, which he feels can be reached if the President moves forward with entitlement reform.
LaTourette comments that the Republicans’ walk out yesterday, heading home because there are no votes between now and the weekend, is not as significant as it appears. “We’re not doing anything to get this done because there’s nothing we can do,” he says. “This is going to be a negotiation between the President of the United States and House Speaker John Boehner.”
House Speaker John Boehner and President Obama finally breaking silence by speaking on the phone yesterday, but with twenty-six days left before we tumble over the fiscal cliff, there’s still no sign of progress, and we could be facing massive tax hikes and spending cuts at the start of the new year.
This morning on “Starting Point”, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), member of the Budget Committee, supports the president’s plan, saying that it is consistent with his campaign promises to extend tax cuts for the middle class, but not for the wealthiest Americans. He adds that the Republicans’ “unspecified proposal” is an “unacceptable” response to the president’s plan.
Merkley believes Republicans are playing a “game of chicken” with the fiscal cliff: “It’s not acceptable that this game of chicken continue… There need to be very specific negotiations. If they need to keep them private and contained for awhile to get into the details, so be it, but action is required.”
The U.S. is just 27 days away from falling over the fiscal cliff, but there is still no deal in sight. Texas Republican Congressman Jeb Hensarling offers his take on the stalemate this morning on “Starting Point”. Hensarling is the newly-named Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee and he Co-Chaired the Super Committee on Deficit Reduction.
Hensarling refuses to budge on raising revenue, though he thinks the president will achieve it regardless. “There’s nothing we can do to stop that,” he says, “but the bottom line is you can’t solve this problem through revenue.”
Hensarling refuses to raise tax rates because he says “the fiscal cliff, relative to our nation’s spending driven debt crisis, is a pothole...What’s changed is on the spending side, and yet all this discussion is on the tax revenues.”
With 27 days left before the fiscal cliff, talks of a deal in Washington are still at an impasse. President Obama told Republicans that he will not accept a proposal on the fiscal cliff if it does not include raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans, rejecting House Speaker Boehner's deficit reduction plan on that basis.
This morning on "Starting Point", Stephanie Cutter, former Deputy Campaign Manager for the Obama 2012 campaign, stresses it is clear that compromise is possible, but Republicans need to come together. Cutter says, "We still have time to put a deal together. The President has a detailed proposal on the table. Republicans need to decide where they want to move. John Boehner needs to decide how he's going to get his own caucus together. They're becoming increasing isolated in their position."
Cutter adds that "there's...plenty of time for compromise. The President's position is clear. We're not going to do anything that hurts the middle class."
From CNN's Political Ticker
By: CNN's Kevin Liptak
(CNN) – Anti-tax activist Grover Norquist said Monday that his group, Americans for Tax Reform, would work to unseat Republicans who break their pledge to never vote for higher taxes.
His vow came after prominent GOP lawmakers said over the weekend they would consider breaking the Taxpayer Protection Pledge in order to reach a deal with Democrats and President Barack Obama to avoid tumbling over the fiscal cliff – the combination of sweeping spending cuts and tax increases that would go into effect at the end of the year if negotiators can't reach a deal on reducing the federal debt.
Norquist said his group would "certainly highlight who has kept their commitment and who hasn't" when it comes time for lawmakers like Sen. Lindsey Graham and Rep. Peter King to run for re-election, though Norquist claimed voters generally decide on their own to oust elected officials who vote to raise taxes.
"Historically the people who lose do so because the people in their state have figured that out," Norquist said on CNN's "Starting Point with Soledad O'Brien."
READ MORE: Norquist says he'll go after pledge-breakers
This morning on "Starting Point with Soledad O'Brien," Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) defends the Romney-Ryan tax plan to cut 20% in taxes for all income levels, and argues the math does work to allow that to happen.
"I understand the tax plan and what they're guaranteeing is the principles of the type of tax reform they're doing," Sen. Johnson says. "It's pro- growth tax reform. So you lower the marginal rates for everybody. But the way you make sure that the people in the higher income brackets don't have a tax benefit is you broaden their base. You take away or limit their deductions so that you make sure it's revenue neutral. And you do that as a principle so as Congress is crafting that, you have to negotiate things to do that."
Soledad pushes Johnson to list what deductions the plan would look to eliminate.
"For individuals, what Governor Romney and Paul Ryan are saying is none of them are off the table. You start limiting those deductions proportion to the rate you lower their marginal tax rate. That is a very pro-growth process," he says.
"You're talking about limiting deductions for those in the upper income level so that their tax burden remains neutral, so that they don't benefit. That's the principle. You don't pre-negotiate when you go to Congress."
Transcript available after the jump
Priorities USA Action;s Bill Burton says Rep. Paul Ryan couldn't make the math work in proposed tax cuts at the debate.
The House of Representatives is expected to vote on bills addressing the Bush-era tax cuts this week, before congress goes on a on a five-week recess.
Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), ranking Democrat on The House Budget Committee, talks with Soledad O’Brien on "Starting Point" this morning about the reasons House Republicans should take up President Obama’s plan on tax cuts.
Van Hollen says, the president’s plan which passed senate last week “would provide tax relief for 100% of the American people compared to what the current law provides.” The Maryland congressman went on to say Obama’s plan would “provide total relief to 98% of the American people,” however the top 2% would not benefit “quite as much.”
Starting Point airs weekdays from 7am to 9am ET on CNN. Check in often to join the daily conversation.