Obama said 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.
"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. Officials in both parties said there was still time to prevent the changes from kicking in with the new year.
The week began amid optimism that Obama and Boehner had finally begun to significantly narrow their differences. Both were offering a cut in taxes for most Americans, an increase for a relative few, and cuts of roughly $1 trillion in spending over a year. Also included was a provision to scale back future cost-of-living increases for Social Security recipients — a concession by the president that inflamed many liberals..
GOP officials said some senior Republicans such as Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the most recent Republican vice presidential nominee, opposed the possible agreement. But No. 2 House Republican Eric Cantor of Virginia has joined arms with Boehner.
Boehner stepped back and announced what he called Plan B, legislation to let tax rates rise on incomes of $1 million or more while preventing increases for all other taxpayers.
Despite statements of confidence, he and his lieutenants decided late Thursday they were not going to be able to secure the votes needed to pass the measure in the face of opposition from conservatives unwilling to violate decades-old party orthodoxy never to raise tax rates.
The retreat came after it became clear that too many Republicans feared "the perception that somebody might accuse them of raising taxes," Boehner said.
Boehner also said that last Monday he had told Obama he had submitted his bottom-line proposal.
"The president told me that his numbers — the $1.3 trillion in new revenues, $850 billion in spending cuts — was his bottom line, that he couldn't go any further."
That contradicted remarks by White House press secretary Jay Carney, who said on Thursday that Obama has "never said either in private or in public that this was his final offer. He understands that to reach a deal it would require some further negotiation. There is not much further he could go."