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Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner took to the Sunday talk shows to push the Obama administration's plan to avert the "fiscal cliff," saying that while he was optimistic about a deal with Republicans, there would be no agreement without an increase in tax rates for the top 2 percent of income earners.
"There's not going to be an agreement without rates going up," Geithner said on CNN's State of the Union. "If Republicans are not willing to let rates go back up [to Clinton-era levels] ... then there will not be an agreement."
Geithner presented congressional leaders last week with the administration's plan to avert the "fiscal cliff," a combination of major tax increases and drastic spending cuts scheduled for the end of the year.
Here's more about the plan from The Associated Press:
"As outlined by administration officials, the plan calls for nearly $1.6 trillion in new tax revenue over the next decade, while making $600 billion in spending cuts, including $350 billion from Medicare and other health programs. But it also contains $200 billion in new spending on jobless benefits, public works and aid for struggling homeowners — and would make it virtually impossible for Congress to block Obama's ability to raise the debt ceiling."
Speaking on Fox News Sunday, House Speaker John Boehner dismissed the offer as "a non-serious proposal."
Boehner said he was "just flabbergasted" when presented with the plan.
"I looked at [Geithner] and I said, 'You can't be serious,'" he said.
Boehner also dismissed the administration's demand that Congress give up its ability to vote on the debt ceiling.
"Congress is not going to give up this power," he said. "I've made it clear to the president, that every time we get to the debt limit, we need to cut some reforms that are greater than the increase in the debt limit.
"It's the only way to leverage the political process to produce more change than what it would if left alone," he said.
The speaker described the state of negotiations over the issue as going "nowhere," a much less rosy view than that held by Geithner, who on CNN said: "We're far apart still, but I think that we're moving closer together."
As NPR's David Welna reported this morning on Weekend Edition Sunday, the difficult negotiations over the fiscal cliff have been made much harder by a set of three rules by which the Republicans who run the House play.
Geithner acknowledged some of the back-and-forth with Republicans as "political theater," but noted that "the ball really is with them now."
"They're in a hard position," he said on CBS' Face the Nation. "They really are in a difficult position. And they're going to have to figure out the politics of what they do next."