WASHINGTON Progress toward avoiding the “fiscal cliff” seemed stalled Thursday, as the Senate’s top Democrat accused Republican House Speaker John Boehner of acting in dictatorial ways that prevent a solution to looming tax increases and spending cuts.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, speaking in the Senate chamber, said the nation appears headed over the cliff because of a lack of progress in negotiations as the Dec. 31 deadline nears.
He blamed House Republicans, who last week opposed Boehner’s efforts to pass a narrowly crafted bill that would raise tax rates only on the very wealthiest Americans, prompting Boehner to cancel a vote on the bill.
Reid said the House is “being operated with a dictatorship of the speaker.”
“John Boehner seems to care more about keeping his speakership than about keeping the nation on sound financial footing,” Reid said.
Reid said the GOP-controlled House easily could have passed a White House-approved plan with a majority of Democratic votes and a few dozen Republican votes. But House leaders generally avoid such tactics, because they might alienate the Republican caucus and jeopardize the speaker’s job.
Also Thursday, the White House said Obama, before leaving Hawaii, called Boehner, Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. The White House statement said the president got an update on the “fiscal negotiations,” but offered no detail on who, exactly, was negotiating and whether those talks were getting anywhere.