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As "fiscal cliff" clock ticks, Obama hits the road again

10:08 AM, Dec 10, 2012   |    comments
President Barack Obama
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(CBS NEWS) -- It's just over three weeks until the first effects of the "fiscal cliff" kick in and this week begins with more politics, posturing, and partisanship dominating the negotiations between the White House and House Republicans.

Although the president has been criticized by Republicans for "campaign style" rallies on the "fiscal cliff," the president today will hit the road when he heads to Michigan to tour Daimler's Detroit Diesel Corporation. The White House said he will talk again about the "fiscal cliff" and, if a deal isn't struck before the end of the year, how devastating it will be to the economy and the middle class. His remarks come on the heels of his weekly address over the weekend where he repeated that he won't budge on letting the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy expire.

For the Republicans' part, House Speaker John Boehner took the microphone on Friday to insist no progress is being made in talks with the White House.

But just as progress seemed stymied, Mr. Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, met at the White House Sunday for their first face-to-face meeting on the "fiscal cliff" since before Thanksgiving. While details of Sunday's discussion weren't disclosed, both Mr. Obama's and Boehner's spokesmen stressed that "the lines of communication remain open."

Meanwhile, lawmakers took to the political talk shows Sunday to profess their positions on components of a potential deal.

In another sign of progress, the president's call for raising taxes on the wealthy seems to be resonating and gaining the support of some Republicans.

"There is a growing group of folks looking at this and realizing that we don't have a lot of cards as it relates to the tax issue," Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said on "Fox News Sunday." He went a step further, almost endorsing raising the tax rate on the wealthy. "I think [that notion] has merit....I actually am beginning to believe that is the best route for us to take."

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., reiterated his support for raising the tax rate on the wealthy. "Will I accept a tax increase as a part of a deal to actually solve our problems? Yes," he said on ABC's "This Week."

Indicating a roadblock, not all Republicans seemed on board, however, including the third highest ranking Republican in the House, Rep, Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. "I think if you close special interest loopholes, you have a fairer process," McCarthy said. "That is a more efficient way and a fairer way," he said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Republicans, even those who did indicate an opening, had some conditions: cuts to entitlement programs and the debt ceiling.

"The shift in focus in entitlements is where we need to go... Republicans know they have the debt ceiling that's coming up around the corner and the leverage is going to shift as soon as we get beyond this issue--the leverage is going to shift to our side," Corker said.

"What we're saying here is ... show the leadership to get in the room and make the changes" to entitlements, McCarthy said.

The president and his supporters point to his proposal to cut $600 billion from mandatory programs, with more than half going to cut Medicaid.

"I do believe there should be means-testing [in Medicare] and those of us with higher income in their retirement should pay more," Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., said on "Meet the Press."

The way politicians are talking, however, gives at least one Washington veteran hope. "I think we made some progress this week," Erskine Bowles, former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton and co-chair of Mr. Obama's deficit reduction commission, said on CBS News' "Face the Nation."

"Any time you have two guys in there tangoing you have a chance to get it done."

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