Boehner, Obama Move To Direct Talks On Budget

As the negotiations shift to the president and House speaker, some Republicans appear to be encouraging their colleagues to abandon staunch opposition to any tax rate hike, The Washington Post reports. But several outlets note that little movement is apparent from either side.

The Washington Post: Some In GOP Urge Lawmakers To Back Tax Hikes For Changes In Safety-Net Programs
A growing chorus of Republicans is urging House leaders to abandon their staunch opposition to higher tax rates for the wealthy with the aim of clearing the way for a broad deal that would also rein in the cost of federal health and retirement programs (Montgomery and Helderman, 12/6).

The New York Times: Participants In Talks On A Budget Deal Shrink To Two
At House Speaker John A. Boehner's request, Senate leaders and Representative Nancy Pelosi have been excluded from talks to avert a fiscal crisis, leaving it to Mr. Boehner and President Obama alone to find a deal, Congressional aides say. All sides, even the parties excluded, say clearing the negotiating room improves the chance of success. It adds complexity as the two negotiators consult separately with the leaders not in the room. But it also minimizes the number of people who need to say yes to an initial agreement (Weisman and Baker, 12/6).

The Wall Street Journal: Some See Hope As Talks Resume Over 'Fiscal Cliff'
After days of public posturing, budget talks resumed Thursday between the staff of House Speaker John Boehner and the White House. The talks broke a nearly weeklong lull since administration officials had traveled to Capitol Hill for contentious, unproductive meetings with Republicans. Mr. Boehner (R., Ohio) and President Barack Obama spoke by phone Wednesday and committed to renewing negotiating efforts, according to people familiar with the call (Hook, 12/6).

Los Angeles Times: Little Movement On 'Fiscal Cliff' Budget Talks
Congress and the White House appear no closer to an agreement on the year-end budget crisis, although House Speaker John A. Boehner and President Obama have opened lines of communication that could produce a deal later this month. ... The president and his Democratic allies in Congress maintain that wealthier Americans should pay more, saying the country can no longer afford the estimated $900-billion cost of continuing the Bush-era tax rates for another decade. Several influential Republicans have suggested the GOP should accept the president's offer to extend the tax rates for most Americans while the broader budget battle continues. ... Top Republicans are seeking steep cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security in exchange for producing some new tax revenue (Parsons and Mascaro, 12/7).

Politico: W.H. To House GOP: We're Not Moving
If Wednesday's phone call between Speaker John Boehner and President Barack Obama seemed like a hopeful sign in the fiscal cliff standoff, think again. On Thursday, with the House out of session, White House congressional liaison Rob Nabors trekked to Capitol Hill and delivered a firm message: We aren't moving. In a meeting with leadership staff, Nabors reiterated the administration's hard line that tax rates on top earners must go up, according to Republican sources with knowledge of the meeting. The White House is also insisting that Congress give it power to raise the debt limit on its own. Furthermore, in a development that could signal a step closer to the fiscal cliff, Nabors said the White House's offer stands on mandatory spending on entitlement programs, the sources said (Sherman, Bresnahan and Budoff Brown, 12/6).

Politico Pro: Senate Dems To GOP: First, The Tax Cuts
Senate Democratic leaders complained Thursday that Republicans still haven't spelled out specifics about how they want to cut health care programs. But they also said they wouldn't talk entitlements — specifics or not — until the Republicans agreed to raise tax rates for the wealthy. "I've tried to make very clear until there is some movement in tax rates I’m not talking about any other proposals, whether there will be a cut here or a cut there," Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters Thursday morning. In short, the health entitlement component of any fiscal cliff deal remains much where it's been all along: mired in a bog of tactical disagreements, and stuck there because of the disputes over taxes (Cunningham, 12/6).

Meanwhile, one news outlet looks to what may happen if a deal isn't reached.

McClatchy: Health Services Advocates Are Apprehensive About Federal Budget Debate
Health care providers and patient advocates are anxious over pending cuts to federal health programs next year if Democrats and Republicans can't strike a deal on budget cuts and taxes by Dec. 31. Unless Congress can agree on at least $1.2 trillion in program cuts, wide-ranging reductions in domestic and defense spending, known as "sequestration," will begin Jan. 2. Some services are exempt, such as veterans' health programs, Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program. Funding for the main provisions of the 2010 health care law doesn’t begin until 2014, so it also wouldn't be affected by the 2013 sequester. But money for crucial services such as community health centers, HIV and AIDS programming, bio-medical research, disease control and prevention, and the regulation of food, drugs and medical devices would face reductions of 8.2 percent beginning next year if Congress and the White House fail to reach a compromise (Pugh, 12/6).

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