WASHINGTON -- House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) offered conciliatory words but no actual signs of compromise Friday at his first post-election press conference, reiterating the Republican Party's opposition to raising any taxes to deal with the country's debt and deficit.
His position raises the likelihood of another bitter showdown in Congress over the same fundamental issues of taxes and fairness that roiled the legislature in 2010, when the nation nearly defaulted on its debts.
This time, the country faces a "fiscal cliff" at the start of 2013, when the Bush-era tax cuts expire and the government has to start implementing a decade-long budget-cutting program worth about $1 trillion.
Democrats, who used to favor the expiration of most of the tax cuts, have refined their position in recent years in favor of retaining all but those on income above $250,000, which would affect about 2 percent of the population.
Republicans have opposed letting any taxes go up, and that remains their position, Boehner said in a speech Wednesday.
Instead of discussing raising any taxes, Boehner said that President Barack Obama and Democrats should work with Republicans to come up with a tax-reform plan that cuts taxes, eliminates loopholes and makes the system simpler. That, Boehner argued, will lead to more revenue through increased economic activity. At the same time, Republicans argue, more budget cutting needs to be done, especially through changes to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
"2013 should be the year we begin to solve our debt through tax reform and entitlement reform," Boehner said. "I'm proposing that we avert the fiscal cliff together in a manner that ensures that 2013 is finally the year that our government comes to grips with the major problems that are facing us."
Boehner did not offer specifics, but suggested it was a path Obama could accept. Obama was expected to address similar issues during a Friday afternoon news conference.
"This framework can lead to common grounds, and I hope the president will respond today in that same spirit," Boehner said. "This is an opportunity for the president to lead. This is his moment to engage the Congress and work towards a solution that can pass both chambers."
Implicit in that statement, however, was the idea that raising taxes on the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans could not pass the House, although in exit polls at Tuesday's elections, about 6 in 10 voters said they favored that approach. The statement also assumes that Democrats should abandon a postion, favored by voters, that already represents a significant compromise from their original position.
Still, Boehner repeated the essential outlines of the plan presented by Tuesday's biggest loser, the GOP's presidential nominee, Mitt Romney.
"By lowering rates and cleaning up the tax code, we know that we're going to get more economic growth," Boehner said. "It'll bring jobs back to America. It'll bring more revenue. We also know that if we clean up the code and make it simpler, the tax code will be more efficient. The current code only collects about 85 percent of what's due the government. And it's clear that if you have a simpler, cleaner, fairer tax code, that efficiency -- the effectiveness and efficiency of the tax code increases exponentially."
Romney's plan, which also included large increases in defense spending, was deemed mathematically unfeasible by several organization, including the Tax Policy Center. There's no way to tell if Boehner's vision is workable, however, because he offered no details beyond the assertion that taxes should not go up.
"I don't want to box myself in," Boehner said. "I don't want to box anybody else in. I think it's important for us to come to an agreement with the president. But this is his opportunity to lead."
UPDATE: 2:12 p.m. -- Democrats stood by their vision Friday, with Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid again calling for extending the Bush cuts for income under $250,000.
"Even as we're negotiating a broader deficit reduction package, let's extend the middle-class tax cuts right now," Obama said in a brief speech at the White House.
"That one step would give millions of families, 98 percent of Americans and 97 percent of small businesses the certainty that they need going into the new year. It would immediately take a huge chunk of the economic uncertainty off the table," Obama said. "In fact, the Senate has already passed a bill doing exactly this, so all we need is action from the House. And I've got the pen ready to sign the bill right away. I'm ready to do it. I'm ready to do it."
Reid echoed that argument in a statement.
"It is time for us to put politics aside and give the American people the balanced approach they are demanding," Reid said. "I am optimistic that we can meet this challenge before the end of the year.”
Michael McAuliff covers Congress and politics for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.