WASHINGTON, D.C. (CBS News) - Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner made it clear Wednesday there is no room for compromise: Republicans must accept an increase in tax rates for upper-income Americans.
Negotiations on a budget deal haven't gone very far and there are just 27 days before that so-called "fiscal cliff." That's the package of tax increases for most Americans and budget cuts that will hit automatically unless the White House and Congress find a gentler way to solve the crisis in the federal budget.
Here's how Secretary Geithner put it on CNBC when asked whether the administration is prepared to go over the "fiscal cliff": "Absolutely. There's no prospect to an agreement that doesn't involve those rates going up on the top two percent of the wealthiest Americans. Remember, it's only the two percent."
By two percent, he means individuals making more than $200,000, and couples taking in $250,000 or more.
Republicans say rates shouldn't be increased on anyone.
With no agreement, going over the fiscal cliff would be painful. The automatic tax increases break down like this: Households making $20,000 to $40,000 would see an increase in $1,200 a year. Incomes of $40,000 to $64,000 would see taxes rise $2,000, and in the $64,000 to $108,000 bracket, taxes go up $3,500 a year.
President Obama and the Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner talked this over Wednesday. There is a code of silence the White House and Speaker Boehner try to apply to these phone conversations, releasing as few details as possible to protect the underlying negotiations.
Nevertheless, CBS News has learned the following: The speaker and the president spoke before Treasury Secretary Geithner's comments about going over the "cliff."
The conversation was described as relatively brief, meaning shorter than the 28-minute conversation Speaker Boehner and the president had last week. Also those familiar with the conversation did not describe it to CBS News with words like "curt," "frank," and "direct," meaning it was probably more gentle than the previous conversation.
This is no longer a time for check-in phone calls between these two leaders. Everything now is substantive about the underlying merit of what Treasury Secretary Geithner said about tax rates.
Republicans still believe this can be done by changing deductions and tax loopholes, not raising rates on the wealthiest Americans.