Nov. 29: The White House sends Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Director of Legislative Affairs Rob Nabors to visit the Democratic and Republican leadership on the Hill, where they propose $1.6 trillion in tax increases over 10 years, $50 billion in stimulus spending, $400 billion in savings from Medicare and other entitlement programs to be worked out next year, and the requirement that Congress forfeit the authority over the debt limit. The GOP reaction was swift and critical: “A complete break from reality,” said one Republican congressional aide. Boehner would later call it a “la-la land offer.” Republicans are particularly peeved that Obama was asking for twice as much revenue as he had during the election. In a news conference later that day, Boehner says that “no substantive progress” had been made in the talks.
Nov. 30: Obama takes his message on the road with a visit to the Rodon Group’s plant in the Philadelphia suburbs that manufactures K'Nex and other toys. Just after the president urges Republicans to stop fighting to preserve tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, Boehner holds a news conference of his own to say, “There’s a stalemate--let’s not kid ourselves.”
Dec. 3: House Republicans send a counteroffer to the White House that includes $800 billion in new tax revenue and $1.4 trillion in savings made up of $600 billion in cuts from health programs, $300 billion savings from other mandatory programs, $200 billion from revising the consumer price index used by the government to set salaries and benefits, and $300 billion in cuts to other discretionary spending. The White House dismisses the offer, saying it “does not meet the test of balance.”
Dec. 4: House Democrats file a discharge petition in an attempt to force the House to vote on a Senate-passed bill to extend tax cuts for everyone but the wealthiest Americans. The earliest it could be considered is on Dec. 24.
Dec. 5: Negotiations are at a standstill. Geithner says on CNBC that the administration is “absolutely” prepared to go over the cliff if an agreement can't be reached. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell unsuccessfully tries to force a vote on the White House’s original proposal. Obama and Boehner speak by phone, but there is no progress.
Dec. 6: Staff talks between the House GOP and the White House are renewed.
Dec. 7: Boehner tells reporters at the Capitol that he has no progress to report and blames the administration for the stalemate.
Dec. 9: In one of the first promising signs in days, Obama and Boehner have a Sunday meeting. Afterward, their staffs release identical statements declining to read out details but promising that “lines of communication” remain open.
Dec. 10: Obama takes his message of higher taxes on the wealthy to Michigan for a campaign-style event. The stalemate continues, with talks ongoing but no new information to share. Republicans argue that the president hasn’t detailed spending cuts to reduce the deficit, but the administration insists it has.
Dec. 11: Negotiations pick up, although the two sides seem no closer to a deal. News outlets report that the White House sent a counteroffer that lowered its demands to $1.4 trillion in new revenue, but Boehner turns it down and sends back another counteroffer of his own that his staff declines to describe. The speaker continues to push the White House for spending cuts. The White House promised corporate tax reform in an attempt to sweeten the deal, but Republicans insist they’ve always said it has to be part of a deal. Boehner and Obama end the day by speaking on the phone.
Dec. 13: As Boehner briefs reporters, he says he remains optimistic but laments “serious differences.” It appears increasingly likely that lawmakers will have to come back after Christmas, as House Majority Leader Eric Cantor pledges that the House will stay in Washington until Christmas Eve and then return before New Year’s Eve. The two sides seem no closer to a deal: Boehner seeks to keep his caucus in the loop with a closed-door meeting in which colleague Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., described him as “not a happy camper.” Positions seem to harden, as Durbin says he’s been told that raising the Medicare eligibility age, a key proposal for reducing Medicare spending, is off the table. But at least Obama and Boehner get back in the same room for what is described as a “frank,” 50-minute meeting at the White House. Boehner’s office once again gives no further details. Senate Republicans begin work on their own plan to let tax cuts expire for the wealthiest Americans but block other attempts to raise more revenue, such as limiting deductions.