Obama-Boehner Talks: 5.0

Photograph by Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner enters a press conference where he spoke about the fiscal cliff.

House Speaker John Boehner, after several conversations with President Barack Obama either in person or by telephone, has gone to the White House again today.

With a Dec. 31 deadline for averting a pileup of automatic tax increases and spending cuts bearing down on them, the two leaders have inched toward a potential compromise.

The president started these talks insisting on $1.6 trillion in tax revenue. The speaker opened with $800 billion in revenue, all of it from limiting tax exemptions.

The president has come down to $1.4 trillion. The speaker has gone up to $1 trillion.

The president has insisted on raising tax rates for top earners, households earning more than $250,000 a year. The speaker had refused, until late last week when, by accounts of people familiar with the talks, he offered to raise rates for  people making more than $1 million a year.

The speaker, in turn, has insisted upon concessions in entitlement spending.

If their potential meeting point rests in some figure around $1.2 trillion in taxes, and some cutoff for taxpayers protected from the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts on Dec. 31 at a household income of $500,000 — and if the two can find an accommodation on Medicare and other entitlements — they could have the makings of a deal.

The  meeting at the White House today lasted about 45 minutes, according to Boehner spokesman Michael Steel. He said there would be no “readout” of the details. The speaker did not respond to reporters’ questions afterward.

This is what both Boehner’s office and the White House have done following past talks, generally ending with an assurance that “the lines of communication” remain open.

This was the fifth personal talk.

They met, along with other congressional leaders, at the White House on Nov. 16.

They talked by phone on Dec. 5, and met at the White House on Dec. 9. They met again at the White House on Dec. 13, and by phone on Friday. Today, together again.

With eight dealing days left before Christmas, two weeks to the fiscal cliff.

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