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Updated Saturday, December 15, 2012 at 10:31 PM

Boehner reportedly pitches millionaire tax increase

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Signaling new movement in "fiscal cliff" talks, House Speaker John Boehner has proposed raising the top rate for earners making more than $1 million, a person familiar with the negotiations said.

President Obama, who wants higher top rates for households earning more than $250,000, has not accepted the offer, this person said.

The offer, made in a phone call Friday between the two leaders, marked the first time Boehner has entertained an increase in income-tax rates.

The proposal, however, indicated progress in talks that had appeared stalled. The person discussed the plan on condition of anonymity.

As part of a broader budget deal, Boehner is seeking more spending cuts than Obama has proposed, particularly in mandatory health-care spending. Boehner has asked for a long-term increase in the eligibility age for Medicare and for lower cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security.

Boehner's tax proposal was first reported by Politico.

Brendan Buck, Boehner's spokesman, declined to comment on the offer. "We have not commented on the content of private discussions, and we're certainly not going to comment on rumors," he said.

At issue are expiring tax rates that would automatically increase Jan. 1 for virtually every income-tax payer if Congress and the president don't act. Steep budget cuts are also scheduled to kick in, unless Congress and Obama agree to forestall them with other deficit-reduction measures.

Obama has insisted on extending current rates for the 98 percent of taxpayers in households that earn less than $250,000. He would let the top two marginal rates increase from 33 to 35 percent and from 36 to 39.6 percent for those taxpayers making more than that the threshold.

Until now, Boehner had maintained his opposition to raising any tax rates. Instead, he had proposed to raise as much as $800 billion in tax revenue over 10 years by limiting tax loopholes and deductions as part of a broader tax overhaul.

But the speaker and House Republicans have come under increasing pressure from a number of Senate Republicans who say they should yield to Obama's demand on tax rates and then press him for additional cuts early next year in exchange for an increase in the nation's borrowing limit.

Obama has proposed about $600 billion in spending reductions over 10 years, including about $350 billion in Medicare and other health-care savings. But he has also proposed about $200 billion in additional spending, including aid to the unemployed and to struggling homeowners and for public-works projects.

The incoming House Rules Committee chairman, Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas, said Friday that congressional Republicans would be willing to accept an increase in tax rates for top earners if Democrats make significant reductions in entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare.

"If it's a good deal, yes," Sessions, a close Boehner ally, said on Bloomberg Television's "Political Capital With Al Hunt."

Material from Bloomberg News

is included in this report.

Speaker John Boehner reportedly makes offer to President Obama.


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