‘Nowhere’ Sunday: Boehner and Geithner want the other side to get serious

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The White House and John Boehner dug in on Sunday morning, assuring their respective bases that they'll stand strong in the negotiations over the so-called fiscal cliff.

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner appeared on all five Sunday shows, and insisted that President Obama's existing budget proposal was a serious first offer in the negotiations, despite the fact it contains almost nothing House Republicans have demanded as part of any potential deal, and that it's Republicans who hold the keys to the deal.

“It’s going to be very hard for them,” Geithner said on "Fox News Sunday."

“You’ve heard them, for the first time, I think, in two decades now, acknowledge that they’re willing to have revenues go up as part of a balanced plan. That’s a good first step. But they have to tell us what they’re willing to do on rates and revenues. That’s going to be very hard for Republicans.”

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(Geithner never looks particularly comfortable in television interviews, but looked particularly uncomfortable in his sit-down with Fox's Chris Wallace.)

Geithner also insisted Social Security was off the table in the current negotiations.

"We're prepared to, in a separate process, look at how to strengthen Social Security,” he said on ABC’s
This Week."

“But not as part of a process to reduce the other deficits the country faces."

Boehner, for his part, said the current talks had gotten the two sides "nowhere," and insisted that Congress wouldn't give up the leverage of the debt ceiling, which Geithner had said should be sacrificed as part of a deal.

"Silliness," he said of the idea, in an appearance on "Fox News Sunday" that Wallace noted was requested by the speaker's staff. 

"Congress is not going to give up this power," Boehner added. "I've made it clear to the president, that every time we get to the debt limit, we need to cut some reforms that are greater than the increase in the debt limit. It's the only way to leverage the political process to produce more change than what it would if left alone."

Boehner, wearing a lighthearted purple tie, ended with some ominous words, repeating four times some variation of the phrase: "We are going to deal with America's debt problem."

("On that happy note, thanks for talking with us," Wallace said.)

Chuck Schumer didn't appear on any shows--he was updating reporters on the state's request for Sandy aid at one of his regular Sunday press conferences--but Democrats employed his tactic of expressing their deep sympathy for Boehner's difficult position.

”I feel almost sorry for John Boehner," said Missouri senator Claire McCaskill, one of the senators Schumer helped elect in 2006 and helped protect in this year's elections.

“There is incredible pressure on him from a base of his party that is unreasonable about this,” she said. “And he’s got to decide, is his speakership more important, or is the country more important? And in some ways, he has got to deal with this base of the Republican Party, who Grover Norquist represents.”

(Norquist was on "Meet the Press" and sparred with CNBC's Jim Cramer, who used to work with him at the Harvard Crimson.)

Most of the Sunday guests and roundtable participants seemed to think the two sides were mostly posturing at this point and that a deal would be reached just before the year-end deadline. But not all of them.

“I think we’re going over the cliff," said South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham, who tried to pre-emptively blame the president. "It’s pretty clear to me they made a political calculation. This offer doesn’t remotely deal with entitlement reform in a way to save Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security from imminent bankruptcy." 

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