In exchange, the president would back $600 billion in spending cuts, including $350 billion from Medicare and other health programs. But he also wants $200 billion in new spending for jobless benefits, public works projects and aid for struggling homeowners. His proposal for raising the ceiling on government borrowing would make it virtually impossible for Congress to block him going forward.
Republicans said they responded in closed-door meetings with laughter and disbelief.
The GOP plan is certain to whip up opposition from Democrats opposed to any action now on Social Security, whose defenders say should not be part of any fiscal cliff deal. And Democrats also are deeply skeptical of raising the Medicare age.
Both ideas were part of negotiations between Boehner and Obama in the summer of last year.
In a letter to the president, Boehner and six other House Republicans insisted that the November election that returned Obama to the White House and the GOP to majority control in the House requires both parties to come together “on a fair middle ground.”
“With the fiscal cliff nearing, our priority remains finding a reasonable solution that can pass both the House and Senate, and be signed into law in the next couple of weeks,” Republicans wrote.
One of the few things the White House and Capitol Hill Republicans can agree to is a framework that would make a “down payment” on the deficit and all or most of the extend expiring Bush-era tax cuts but leave most of the legislative grunt work until next year.
Republicans dismissed the notion of raising tax rates and said flatly they would oppose them. Instead, new revenue would come from tax reform, closing loopholes and deductions while lowering rates, according to the Bowles plan.
Signing the letter was Boehner, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy and Rep. Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee and the unsuccessful GOP vice presidential candidate. Rep. Dave Camp, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Fred Upton, chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, and Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the Republican Conference chair, also signed the letter.
In a scathing attack, Republican leader Mitch McConnell said, “if the president is serious about joining us in an effort to reduce the deficit and protect the economy, he’ll get off the campaign trail, drop the left-wing talking points, and instruct his staff to negotiate a solution in good faith based on actual written proposals. In short, he’ll begin doing what leaders do: Lead.”