Talks to avoid a US fiscal crisis stalled on Wednesday as President Barack Obama accused opponents of holding a personal grudge against him while the top Republican negotiator called the president “irrational.”
As a year-end deadline nears, Obama and House of Representatives speaker John Boehner are locked in intense bargaining over a possible deal to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff of harsh tax hikes and automatic spending cuts that could badly damage an already weak economy.
Obama said he was puzzled over what was holding up the talks and told Boehner’s Republicans to stop worrying about scoring “a point against the president” or forcing him into concessions “just for the heck of it.”
“It is very hard for them to say yes to me,” he told a news conference in the White House.
The rise in tensions threatens to unravel significant progress made over the last week.
Boehner and Obama have each offered substantial concessions that have made a deal look within reach. Obama has agreed to cuts in benefits for seniors, while Boehner has conceded to Obama’s demand that taxes rise for the richest Americans.
However, the climate of goodwill has evaporated since Republicans announced plans on Tuesday to put an alternative tax plan to a vote in the House this week that would largely disregard the progress made so far in negotiations.
On Wednesday, Obama threatened to veto the Republican measure, known as “Plan B,” if Congress approved it.
Boehner’s office slammed Obama for opposing their plan, which would raise taxes on households making more than $1 million a year and is a concession from longstanding Republican opposition to increasing any tax rates.
“The White House’s opposition to a backup plan ... is growing more bizarre and irrational by the day,” Boehner said through his spokesman, Brendan Buck. Boehner expressed confidence the House would pass the legislation later on Thursday.