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President Obama, John Boehner meet on "fiscal cliff"

7:07 PM, Dec 13, 2012   |    comments
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(CBS News) As the "fiscal cliff" negotiations have seemed to hit a stalemate, President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner are meeting at the White House this afternoon.

Earlier today Boehner forcefully argued that the discussion over the "fiscal cliff" shouldn't be about raising taxes but cutting spending and that is what's holding up any prospects of a deal.

"It's clear the president is just not serious about cutting spending. But spending is the problem," Boehner said at a news conference earlier today. "The president wants to pretend spending isn't the problem. That's why we don't have an agreement."

Republicans are demanding that President Obama agree to more spending cuts. The main components of the president's latest offer includes $600 billion in cuts with $1.4 trillion in tax increases. The Republican offer, meanwhile, is the opposite. It includes $800 billion in revenue increases and $1.4 trillion in spending cuts.

Boehner also said criticized the president's deal for including spending proposals. "[T]hey've put some spending cuts on the table, [but] unfortunately the new stimulus spending they want almost out strips all of the spending cuts that they have outlined," he said.

The president appears to be winning the public relations debate as polls have consistently shown that Republicans will bear the brunt of the blame if no deal is reached on the "fiscal cliff."

While the president says the election results show that the public is on his side to increase taxes on the wealthy, Boehner disputes that sentiment. "[T]he election wasn't a mandate to raise taxes on small businesses, it was a mandate for both parties to work together," he said.

Meantime, while Boehner continues to resist tax increases, rank-and-file Republicans are publicly admitting that tax rates, at least on top earners, are likely to increase. The president will "get his wish," Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., saidtoday on "CBS This Morning."

Prior to Boehner's remarks, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., sharply criticized the Republican latest counter-proposal saying it "had more signatures than ideas."

"It had, like, one number," Pelosi said on its lack of specifics.

On the debate over how to deal with entitlement spending, the president has indicated a willingness to raise the eligibility age of Medicare from 65 to 67 but Pelosi once again laid down different boundaries. "Don't even think about raising the Medicare age," she said.

Spending is also not the only area Boehner would like to see the president budge. He wants the president to forgo his demand that the debt ceiling be lifted. But White House spokesperson Jay Carney said the U.S. needs to pay its debts. 

"Congress controls the purse strings," Carney said. "It's about paying bills that Congress incurred."

Pelosi said a deal must be reached in the next couple of days or by next week for the "fiscal cliff" to be averted before Jan 1. 

LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, CBS News

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