Leaders Remain Far Apart on ‘Fiscal Cliff’ Fix


Congress got back to work this week, but Democrats and Republicans are still far apart on how to address the country’s fiscal problems.

House Speaker John Boehner voiced concern that a divided Washington might not be able to reach a deal in time to avoid the looming “fiscal cliff” when a host of tax cuts expire and automatic spending cuts kick in. (Read More:Boehner Says Not Confident About 'Fiscal Cliff'.)

Moody’s Investors Service also said Tuesday the U.S. could lose its triple-A debt rating if budget negotiations next year do not produce policies that over time decrease the country’s debt. (Read More: Budget Talks to Determine US Credit Rating: Moody’s.)

“The problem is too large to tax our way out of it,” House majority leader Eric Cantor told CNBC’s "Closing Bell" on Tuesday.

“What we really need to focus on is how big do we want the government to be and begin to assess our priorities so we can manage down the deficit,” the Republican from Virginia said. That means dealing with entitlements, Cantor said.

Cantor said that while Republicans have put forward proposals, the White House has been unwilling to meet with them in an attempt to reach a deal.

Steny Hoyer, the House minority leader, took exception to that claim in a separate interview on CNBC. "The president in the 32 years I've been in congress has spent more time working with Republicans and with Democrats in the White House to try to get an agreement," Hoyer said.

The Democrat from Maryland blamed Republicans for backing away from Simpson-Bowles and the Boehner-Obama agreements. But Hoyer expects a deal after the election. "Hopefully, it will come before the end of the year" as Congress takes advantage of the lame-duck session.

Hoyer said an agreement has to take a "balanced approach" that means dealing with revenue and entitlement reform. "We have to get this country on a fiscally sustainable path," Hoyer said.