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Boehner Floats Tax Rate Hike For Highest Earners

House Speaker John Boehner is showing new flexibility on tax rates in back-and-forth talks with President Obama on the "fiscal cliff."

In a call on Friday, Boehner proposed allowing income tax rates to increase on people making more than $1 million a year as long as the president agreed to substantial spending cuts, NPR's Tamara Keith tells our Newscast Desk.

Until now, Boehner has insisted that any new revenue come through closing loopholes and limiting deductions. Obama had campaigned on the idea of raising tax rates on people earning more than $250,000 a year.

Still, Keith reports that it's a sign serious negotiations are underway as the Dec. 31 deadline looms. Without a deal, automatic spending cuts and tax increases will trigger.

Pushing back on news reports that Boehner on Friday offered to push off for one year a fight over raising the federal debt limit, Boehner's spokesman says the Republican position has not changed. Republicans have insisted that any increases in the debt limit be matched by spending cuts.

"Any debt limit increase would require cuts and reforms of a greater amount," Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said Sunday.

If Congress does not act, the U.S. will hit its debt ceiling by mid-February.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit www.npr.org.

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