WASHINGTON - House Speaker John Boehner offered Wednesday to pursue a deal with a victorious President Barack Obama that will include higher taxes "under the right conditions" to help reduce the nation's staggering debt and put its finances in order.
"Mr. President, this is your moment," Boehner told reporters. "We want you to lead."
Boehner said House Republicans are asking Obama "to make good on a balanced approach" that would including spending cuts and address government social benefit programs.
"Let's find the common ground that has eluded us," Boehner said while congratulating the president on winning a second term.
The Ohio Republican spoke a day after the president's clear re-election victory. He said conditions on higher taxes would include a revamped tax code to make it cleaner and fairer, fewer loopholes and lower rates for all.
The speaker noted that during one-on-one budget talks with the president in the summer of 2011, Obama had "endorsed the idea of tax reform and lower rates, including a top rate of lower than 35 percent," the present top rate.
"We're closer than we think to the critical mass needed legislatively to get tax reform done," he said.
Boehner did not specify what loopholes House Republicans might consider trimming. Nor did he take questions.
His comments were generally along the lines of proposals by vanquished Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney that also were vague on specifics.
Still, the speaker's comments signaled a willingness to enter into talks. He suggested Congress could use its upcoming lame-duck session to get the ball moving on such a compromise.
"We can't solve the problem of our fiscal imbalance overnight...This is going to take time," he said.