Boehner: Obama Walking Economy to Edge of 'Cliff'

Speaker of the House John Boehner
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Speaker of the House John Boehner

Republican House Speaker John Boehner accused President Barack Obama on Friday of "slow-walking" the economy to the edge of the "fiscal cliff."

With the deadline for reaching a deal to avert the half trillion dollars in tax increases and spending cuts 3 1/2 weeks away, Boehner said Obama "wasted another week."

"It's time for the president if he's serious to come back to us with a counteroffer," Boehner told reporters.

He said a phone call with Obama "was pleasant but it was just more of the same."

Wall Street took Boehner's comments in stride. (Read More: Stocks Mixed Despite Boehner Comments.)

After the Labor Department reported the unemployment rate dropped to 7.7 percent in November as employment grew faster than expected, Boehner blamed Obama and Democrats for the prolonged uncertainty of the talks and said it was hurting the economy. (Read More: Economy Creates 146,000 Jobs, Rate Slides to 7.7%.)

"The president has adopted a deliberate strategy to slow-walk our economy right to the edge of the fiscal cliff," Boehner said.

Fundamental differences remain between the two sides. The president is demanding that tax cuts set to expire on Dec. 31 be extended for middle-class taxpayers, but not for the more affluent.

If and when agreement is reached on that question, the two sides will try figure out a way to deal with the spending cuts, perhaps postponing or trimming them. They will also work toward a longer-term deficit-reduction package to be taken up after the newly elected Congress is sworn in next month.

"It's going to require both leaders," Obama senior adviser David Axelrod told MSNBC. "Each is going to have to make sacrifices in order to get this done. I think everybody recognizes the consequences of not getting it done."

"In order to solve the problem and achieve the $4 trillion in savings, you're going to have to do a balanced package, including all of these things," he said, in answer to a question about the balance between tax hikes and entitlement reforms.

As in previous showdowns on fiscal issues, Boehner and Obama are the central players in the talks. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi are "being kept in the loop," said an aide close to both Democratic leaders, ready to work out any details.

Boehner will have a challenge selling whatever agreement he might reach to conservative Tea Party sympathizers in the House, some of whom are openly critical of the concessions the speaker has already made, particularly his openness to revenue increases of any kind.

But with polling showing that Americans will blame Republicans if the country goes off the "cliff," more House Republicans have been urging Boehner to get an agreement quickly even if it means tax hikes for the wealthy.

At a news conference Friday, Pelosi accused the Republicans of holding the middle income tax cut "hostage" to GOP demands for cuts in such entitlements as Social Security and Medicare.

"You cannot cut your way to deficit reductions," she said.