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Stalemate on fiscal cliff still stands

WASHINGTON — Republicans in Congress and President Barack Obama consumed much of yesterday talking up their positions on the “fiscal cliff” and though Obama and Republican House Speaker John Boehner spoke by phone, neither side offered any new compromises in public.

Nor was the phone call, a rarity, followed by any immediate announcement of a face-to-face meeting that has been widely anticipated all week and was explicitly requested early in the day by House of Representatives Republican leader Eric Cantor.

Asked in an interview with CNBC if the administration was ready to go over the so-called fiscal cliff if Republicans don’t come around on taxes, Obama’s chief negotiator, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, responded: “Oh, absolutely.”

Facing spending cuts and tax increases that start to take effect in January unless Congress acts, Republicans on Capitol Hill were privately acknowledging that they were taking a public relations thrashing at the hands of the White House, which has marshaled a campaign-style offensive that involves some of the very “job-creators” Republicans say they are protecting.

Obama met with another such corporate group ysterday, The Business Roundtable, renewing his call to include tax hikes on the wealthiest two per cent of Americans as part of the final resolution and for including an increase in the nation’s borrowing limit.

US stocks rose yesterday after Obama also said a deal to avert the fiscal cliff was possible within a week, though he expressed it as a hope not a prediction.

The confrontation has become an endless loop of familiar talking points and well-worn positions. Republican leaders have balked at raising any tax rates, and Democrats have resisted Republican calls for cuts in entitlements like the Medicare and Medicaid health care programmes.

Obama said there could be a quick deal if Republican leaders dropped their opposition to raising tax rates for those making more than $250,000 a year in exchange for spending cuts and entitlement reforms. (Reuters)

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