Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, President Obama’s top negotiator on the fiscal cliff, sounded optimistic that a deal would be reached to avoid the package of tax hikes and spending cuts that everyone agrees would be bad for the economy at the end of the year. “I do, I do,” Geithner said on NBC when he was asked whether he thought the White House could reach a fiscal cliff deal with Republicans in Congress. “The only thing standing in the way of that would be a refusal by Republicans to accept that rates are going to, have to go up on the wealthiest Americans,” he added, according to Politico. “And I don't really see them doing that.”
Despite the optimistic note, Geithner, who appeared on five Sunday talk shows, also said that “I can’t promise” the United States won’t go over the fiscal cliff but “that’s a decision that lies in the hands of the Republicans.” Both sides seemed to harden their position Sunday with each blaming the other for the current standoff. “I would say we’re nowhere, period,” House Speaker John Boehner said on Fox News, dismissing the White House plan as “not serious.”Sen. Lindsey Graham also offered a pessimistic message, saying he thinks “we’re going over the cliff,” reports the Washington Post. (Watch snippets of Sunday shows after the jump.)
The National Journal points out that each side stuck to its strategy, with Geithner portraying the White House line that the standoff could easily be solved if Republicans just relented on the issue of tax cuts for the richest Americans. Republicans, however, insist the negotiations are much more complicated and are trying to emphasize the need to reduce spending.
"The ball really is with them now," Geithner said, noting that Republicans have to accept higher tax rates on the rich and be willing to specify what spending cuts they want in order for negotiations to move forward. Yet he made it clear that Social Security won't be part of the fiscal cliff negotiations. "We're prepared to, in a separate process, look at how to strengthen Social Security," Geithner said on ABC, reports USA Today. "But not as part of a process to reduce the other deficits the country faces."
Geithner expressed some sympathy for Repubicans, saying they’re "having a tough time trying to figure out what they can do, what they can get support from their members for,” reports the Associated Press. Boehner insists that “we’ve put a serious offer on the table … but the White House has responded with virtually nothing.” The Republican leader says that he “was just flabbergasted” when Geithner presented him with the White House fiscal cliff proposal last week. "I looked at him and I said, ‘You can't be serious?’
The plan calls for almost $1.6 trillion in new tax revenue over the next decade and $600 billion in spending cuts, notes Bloomberg.