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Boehner: White House willing to "slow-walk" up to "fiscal cliff"

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) speaks to the media outside his office on Capitol Hill in Washington, December 7, 2012. REUTERS/Yuri
U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) speaks to the media outside his office on Capitol Hill in Washington, December 7, 2012. REUTERS/Yuri

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives John Boehner on Thursday again rejected President Barack Obama's demand for increased power to raise the U.S. debt and charged that the White House seems willing to "slow-walk our economy right up to the 'fiscal cliff.'"

The White House and Congress face a year-end deadline to avert the so-called fiscal cliff of automatic tax hikes and budget cuts that experts fear could plunge the nation into another recession.

"The president wants to pretend spending isn't the problem. That's why we don't have an agreement" to reduce the U.S. debt, Boehner, the top Republican, told a news conference.

In underscoring the stalemate in negotiations, Boehner reiterated his opposition to giving Obama the power to raise the U.S. debt limit without congressional approval.

"Congress is never going to give up our ability to control the purse," Boehner said. "And the fact is, is that the debt limit ought to be used to bring fiscal sanity to Washington."

Boehner seemed to brush off speculation fanned by Democrats that his concern about keeping his job was undermining efforts to cut a bipartisan deal.

"I'm not concerned about my job as speaker. I'm concerned about our kids and our grand kids," Boehner said.

Obama is expected to discuss the "fiscal cliff" later in the day, likely cranking up pressure on Republicans to accept increased tax rates on the wealthy as part of any deal.

Boehner said it's up to the White House to offer a balanced package.

"Republicans want to solve the problem and get this spending line down. The president wants to pretend spending isn't the problem. That's why we don't have an agreement," Boehner said.

"Unfortunately, the White House is so unserious about cutting spending that it appears willing to slow-walk our economy right up to the 'fiscal cliff,'" Boehner added.

(Reporting by Thomas Ferraro, David Lawder, Patricia Zengerle, Richard Cowan and Rachelle Younglai; Editing by Paul Simao)

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