House Speaker John Boehner. (Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)
By Susan Davis, USA TODAY
House Speaker John Boehner will make his first public comments Tuesday about talks to avoid the "fiscal cliff" since meeting with President Obama this weekend.
Obama and Congress are trying to avoid wreaking havoc on the economy when Bush-era tax cuts expire at the end of the year and billions of dollars in spending cuts to defense and domestic programs start to kick in shortly after.
If taxes go up and the automatic spending cuts go into effect, the economy could be thrown into a recession by the third quarter of 2013, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office.
Negotiations were at a standstill last week, but Boehner's surprise Sunday visit to the White House has reinvigorated optimism that a deal can be reached.
Boehner, R-Ohio, and the president have been tight-lipped about the details of their private negotiations, but the speaker has repeatedly made it clear that a final deal has to include greater concessions on spending cuts and entitlement programs if it stands a chance of passing the GOP-controlled House.
In recent days, Republicans have focused on three concessions that could inch Washington closer to a deal: raising the Medicare eligibility age, making wealthier seniors pay more for their benefits, and changing the way cost of living adjustments are calculated for Social Security benefits. Democrats traditionally oppose all three of those proposals.
Boehner also has not budged publicly from his opposition to raising the individual tax rates on the top 2% of earners, which is the foundation of Obama's tax proposal. The president has said there will be no deal unless Republicans relent on their opposition.
Obama also wants any deal to include a guarantee to raise the $16.4 trillion debt ceiling, the U.S. government's borrowing authority, to eliminate the threat of default when it comes up in mid-February.