Fiscal talks remain stalled

WASHINGTON — House Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio did not rule out a rise in the top income tax rate below the level President Obama wants, indicating that he has more room to compromise on taxes if the White House comes forward with flexibility in other aspects of deficit negotiations.

‘‘There are a lot of things that are possible to come from revenue, if the president seizes the opportunity,’’ Boehner said when asked about a top tax rate increase short of the 39.6 percent level of the Clinton-era tax code. ‘‘But none of it is going to be possible if the president insists on ‘my way or the highway.’ ’’

Both parties seized on Friday’s November jobs report, which showed unexpectedly good numbers, to say the other side needs to show more flexibility ahead of a looming fiscal crisis. Next month, hundreds of billions of dollars in automatic tax increases and spending cuts are scheduled to kick in.


But Boehner put the onus on Obama to make the next move.

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‘‘This isn’t a progress report because there’s no progress to report,’’ he told reporters outside his suite of offices in the Capitol. ‘‘The White House has wasted another week.’’

Talks are continuing between Obama administration staff and Boehner’s aides, but little progress is evident. A phone call between the president and speaker Wednesday ‘‘was pleasant,’’ Boehner said, ‘‘but it was more of the same.’’

On Thursday, the president’s top liaison with Congress, Rob Nabors, again delivered the message that tax rates on the rich had to go up before a deal could be worked out.

“More of the same,’’ as Boehner puts it, is Obama’s steadfast insistence that tax rates go up on incomes more than $250,000 in January as part of a down payment on deficit reduction that would lead to broader negotiations next year on overhauls of the tax code and entitlements such as Medicare.


Boehner continues to say his opposition to allowing the top two rates to rise to 36 percent and 39.6 percent, from 33 percent and 35 percent, stems from fears of the impact on small businesses that pay ordinary income tax rates, not the corporate tax rate. About 97 percent of small businesses do not turn enough of a profit to be affected, but Republicans note that more than half of small-business income — from the most profitable small businesses, partnerships, and limited liability corporations — would be hit by the increases. “The risk the president wants us to take with increases of tax rates will hit many small businesses that create 50 to 70 percent of the jobs in our country. That’s the whole issue,’’ he said.

Still, the speaker was given the chance to flatly reject any tax rate increase and he declined.