HATFIELD, Pa. (AP) — President Barack Obama argued Friday 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 surmount a 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 nearly $1.6 trillion in new tax revenue over 10 years, $600 billion in savings from changes in mandatory spending programs including Medicare, and $200 billion in spending ranging from public works projects to help for the unemployed and struggling homeowners, according to administration officials.
Republicans rejected the offer as unreasonable. Republicans have said they are open to new tax revenue but not higher rates.
Obama said he believed both parties "can and will work together" to reach an agreement to get its long-term deficit under control "in a way that's balanced and is fair."
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. The road 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.
The president joked that he's keeping his own "naughty and nice list" for members of Congress — and only some would get a K'NEX set for Christmas.