The top Republican in Congress called on US President Barack Obama again Tuesday to lay out the federal spending cuts he would agree to as part of a deal to avoid the so-called "fiscal cliff."
With just three weeks remaining before a series of tax hikes and deep spending cuts kick in, House Speaker John Boehner said he was optimistic about working out a resolution with the White House but insisted Obama had to "get serious" about compromise with his opponents.
"We're still waiting for the White House to identify what spending cuts the president is willing to make as part of the balanced approach that he promised the American people," Boehner said on the House floor.
"Where are the president's spending cuts?" he asked, referring to Obama's proposal to pare the runaway debt by raising $1.6 trillion in new tax revenues.
"The longer the White House slow-walks this process, the closer our economy gets to the fiscal cliff."
Democrats say Obama has put forward a detailed plan including a tax increase on the wealthiest two percent of Americans and trimmed spending, and that it is their opponents who have refused to lay out their spending cuts which Republicans insist are the priority in any year-end deal.
Obama and Boehner, the two protagonists in the high-stakes negotiation, met Sunday at the White House for what the Republican leader described as "cordial" talks. Few specifics have emerged from that meeting, but Boehner said he remained upbeat.
"I'm an optimist. I'm hopeful that we can reach an agreement," he said, but he added that as the clock ticked down toward a year-end deadline for a deal, Americans were asking: "When is the president going to get serious?"
Consensus has grown in recent weeks that Democrats, empowered by last month's election victory, have the upper hand on the tax issue.
Republican orthodoxy opposes new taxes, but an increasing number of lawmakers in the party have publicly accepted that taxes will have to rise in order to meet required deficit reductions.