House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi doubled down today on a White House pledge to go over the so-called "fiscal cliff" in the absence of a deal that includes tax hikes for the wealthy, telling reporters that "If there's no agreement, we go over the cliff."
Yesterday, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said the White House is "absolutely" prepared to go over "cliff" should negotiations fail to yield a deal ends Bush-era cuts for household incomes above $250,000 per year.
"There is no prospect [for] an agreement that doesn't involve rates going up on the top two percent of the wealthiest Americans," Geithner told CNBC. "What we need to see is have them acknowledge that they are prepared to see rates go up. And if they are willing to accept that, and commit to that as part of an agreement, then we think we can do something really good for the American economy."
Asked about the statement in a press conference today, Pelosi said she saw Geithner's comment not as a threat but as a "statement of fact."
"I saw it as a statement of fact. It's not a threat, it's a prediction," Pelosi said. "If there is no agreement, then the fiscal cliff has to be dealt with... Let's hope that we can have an agreement."
Democrats and Republicans remain locked in a stalemate over finding a formula for averting the so-called "cliff," a series of tax hikes and spending cuts set to go into effect next year. The president insists he will not sign off on a proposal that does not increase tax rates for households earning $250,000 or more per year, while Republicans have repeatedly reiterated their refusal to raise tax rates. In recent days, the White House and House Speaker John Boehner each offered up plans reflective of their party's ideologies, both of which were swiftly rejected by the other side.
Pelosi blasted the GOP proposal, which includes $800 billion worth of unspecified revenue increases and $900 billion worth of spending cuts, as "an assault on the middle class, on our seniors, and on our future" and said "it was not in furtherance of finding common ground."
"There's no reason why we couldn't come to the table and get this done right now. Everybody knows what the elements are and so the question is, if we're going to do, it let's do it now," she said. "If we're not going to do it, if the Republicans are just going to- to say, 'never, no way, we will not ouch one hair on the head of the wealthiest people in our country, not one red cent,' ... then let us know that right now too so we can take the consequences of that and mitigate for that."
President Obama is slated to visit a middle-class family in Northern Virginia to put a human face on the implications of going over the cliff. Democrats are pushing to extend the Bush-era rates for most Americans, while allowing them to go back to Clinton-era rates for the top two percent of earners.
"The beauty of the 39.6 - the Clinton tax rates - was the following: it produces the revenue we need to have a fair and balanced solution that also helps reduce the deficit," Pelosi told reporters. "It stops the hostage taking of the middle income tax cut."
The Democratic leader also castigated House Republicans for leaving town during the negotiations, which on the GOP side are being led by House Speaker John Boehner.
"We most certainly should be here," she said.