Seeking to raise pressure on President Barack Obama, top Republican leaders in Congress called on the White House Tuesday to introduce serious cuts in the ongoing negotiations to avert the fiscal cliff.
"Where are the president's spending cuts? The longer the White House slow-walks this process, the closer our economy gets to the fiscal cliff," House Speaker John Boehner said during brief remarks on the House floor.
Boehner described his Sunday meeting with the president as "cordial" but contended he's still "waiting" for Obama to identify entitlement cuts to go along with his proposal to increase tax rates on the wealthy.
"Even if we did exactly as the president wants, we would see red ink as far as the eye can see," Boehner said. "That's not fixing the problem."
Congress faces an end-of-the-year deadline to find a fiscal cliff deal before automatic tax increases and spending cuts kick in at the start of 2013. Democrats propose raising revenue by letting the Bush-era tax cuts expire on the top 2 percent of income earners, while Republicans oppose any kind of tax rate hike and demand spending cuts to accompany increased revenue from eliminating tax deductions and loopholes.
The president's proposal calls for $1.6 trillion in new revenue through tax increases and reforms, along with $400 billion in spending cuts. Republicans offered $800 billion in revenue through tax reform, but not higher tax rates, and $1.2 trillion in cuts and savings.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, however, said Obama's $400 billion spending cut proposal is "vague."
"Until the president gets specific about cuts, nobody should trust Democrats to put a dime in new revenue toward real deficit reduction or to stop their shakedown of the taxpayers at the top 2 percent," the Kentucky Republican said Tuesday on the Senate floor shortly before Boehner's remarks.
He pointed to a number of federally-funded programs that he considers wasteful spending, including a project at the University of California at Davis, where researchers built robotic squirrels to examine why the mammals are willing to confront rattlesnakes, their main predators, in the wild.
The project was awarded a grant worth $390,000 by the National Science Foundation in 2010, according to the university.
"Don't you think (Obama) could put together a list of spending cuts that at least, at least includes robo-squirrel? We are still waiting," McConnell said.
Recent polls show a majority of Americans favor the president's position that includes higher tax rates on the top income brackets. A new Politico/George Washington University survey on Monday said 60 percent of respondents supported Obama's proposal compared to 38 percent who opposed it, the latest of four surveys in the past two weeks showing public backing.
On entitlement reform, a source familiar with the debt talks told CNN that the two sides have yet to specifically address the cuts as they go back and forth about their overall goals.
With several Republican senators and some Republican House members expressing openness to the president's plan, one of the running arguments in the GOP calls for agreeing to the president's tax demand now so the talks can zero in on spending cuts.