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Fiscal Cliff: Private Bargaining, Public Wrangling

The proposal is "something that's been floated," Obama said, not mentioning that he had tacitly agreed to it in deficit-reduction talks with Boehner more than a year ago that ended in failure.

"When you look at the evidence, it's not clear that it actually saves a lot of money," he said. "But what I've said is, Let's look at every avenue, because what is true is we need to strengthen Social Security, we need to strengthen Medicare for future generations, the current path is not sustainable because we've got an aging population and health care costs are shooting up so quickly."

In his noontime remarks on the House floor, Boehner said, "Let's be honest. We're broke. The plan we offered is consistent with the president's call for a balanced approach."

"We're still waiting for the White House" to do the same," added the Ohio Republican.

GOP senators across the Capitol soon echoed his remarks.

"You have to ask the question, Is the president obsessed with raising taxes?" said Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, a member of the GOP leadership.

Referring to the president's occasional outside-the-Beltway trips to build public support for his position, Thune said Obama was "doing a victory lap" after the campaign.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said GOP lawmakers are determined to overhaul benefit programs so they can "meet the demographics of the country." He recently said Republicans want to curtail annual cost-of-living benefits for Social Security and other government benefits, as well as raise the age of eligibility for Medicare from 65 to 67 beginning at some point in the future.

"The president seems to think that if all he talks about are taxes, and that's all reporters write about, somehow the rest of us will magically forget that government spending is completely out of control and that he himself has been insisting on balance," McConnell said on the Senate floor.

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