Obama starts fiscal cliff talks as Boehner open to revenue boost

House Speaker John Boehner offered a “framework” including new revenue to reduce the U.S. budget deficit during talks with President Barack Obama and Congress leaders on averting a year-end fiscal crisis.

Boehner joined White House Press Secretary Jay Carney in describing today’s meeting, the first in a series, as “constructive.” The session featured the same actors, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, both Democrats, who failed to reach a $4 trillion debt compromise in mid-2011.

Democrats and Republicans agreed the meeting was more symbolic than substantive. It was “a photo op for the president, so be it,” said Georgia Republican Tom Price.

“I wouldn’t expect a lot of movement,” Peter Orszag, Obama’s former director of the Office of Management and Budget, said today on Bloomberg Television. “That’ll come after Thanksgiving.”

While both sides expressed optimism about prospects for a deal, there’s no evidence they narrowed their differences.

“We’re prepared to put revenue on the table, provided we fix the real problems,” including entitlement costs, said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

Higher Taxes

Obama is insisting on higher taxes for top earners and Republicans are refusing to raise rates, leaving negotiators with arithmetically complex and politically fraught choices. Following the talks, a House Republican aide said Boehner’s framework didn’t include increases in marginal tax rates for any group of taxpayers. Obama leaves for Asia tomorrow and Congress is departing Washington until Nov. 26, for its Thanksgiving recess.

The $607 billion fiscal cliff is a combination of tax increases and spending cuts that will take effect in January if Congress doesn’t act. Lawmakers of both parties want to avoid a short-term shock to the economy while making progress on long- term deficit reduction.

Reid, of Nevada, said leaders will meet again with Obama the week after Thanksgiving. “This isn’t something that we’re going to wait until the last minute” to get done, he said.

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