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Boehner challenges Obama on debt deal, tax increases

From NBC's Shawna Thomas and Carrie Dann
A day after his second-in-command pulled out of bipartisan debt talks, House Speaker John Boehner delivered a direct challenge to the White House and said flatly that the House cannot pass a deficit-reduction deal that incorporates any tax increases.

“The president and his party may want a debt limit increase that includes tax hikes, but such a proposal cannot pass the House,” Boehner said in a statement.

Echoing the sentiment of GOP Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who abruptly withdrew from the Biden-led negotiations yesterday along with Senate counterpart Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., Boehner said that a debt ceiling deal must include direct involvement by the president. 

“If the president wants this done, he must lead,” Boehner said.

While Republicans and Democrats have agreed on substantial spending cuts, the issue of taxes to raise revenue remains at an impasse. Most Democrats believe that some tax hikes are necessary to help close the gaping federal deficit.

It’s unclear if Boehner’s statement also means that closing tax loopholes and nixing some existing tax credits are off the table for House Republicans.

Obama will meet Monday with Democratic and Republican leaders in the Senate in an effort to reboot the stalled talks, NBC confirmed. The White House has not yet contacted the Boehner's office to set up a meeting on the deal.

While GOP leaders have categorically refused to OK any tax increases, the public is mixed on whether or not raising taxes is an acceptable way to address the deficit.

Asked in an NBC/WSJ poll earlier this year, respondents were equally split, with a third favoring tax increases to address the deficit, a third advocating for “cutting important programs,” and a third preferring to delay addressing the deficit until later.

But more than 80 percent said placing a surtax on those making more than $1 million was acceptable, and nearly 70 percent were supportive of phasing out the Bush tax cuts for families earning $250,000 per year or more.

NBC's Mark Murray contributed to this report.