(CNN) - The Obama administration will entertain any Republican plans to avoid a so-called "fiscal cliff" at year's end, but Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner says the Bush-era tax cuts for top incomes must go.
Speaking on CNN's "State of the Union" and other Sunday talk shows, Geithner said he's optimistic that the administration can reach a deal with Congress to avert a one-two punch budget analysts say could throw the U.S. economy back into a recession. But he added, "What we're not going to do is extend those tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans."
"Those cost $1 trillion over 10 years," Geithner told CNN. "And there's no possibility that we're going to find a way to get our fiscal house in order without those tax rates going back up."
Republican congressional leaders have flatly rejected the proposal Geithner offered last week, with House Speaker John Boehner saying Sunday he was "flabbergasted" by the plan. Geither said Sunday that the administration "would be happy to look at an alternative plan, but they have to lay that out for us."
"What we can't do is sit here and trying to figure out what works for them," he said. "They have to come tell us what works for them."
The Bush administration tax cuts -- already extended by two years -- are set to expire at the end of 2012. In addition, spending cuts Congress approved during the Republican-led standoff over raising the federal debt ceiling in 2011 will start kicking in at the same time, cutting $1 trillion over 10 years. Those would be coupled with other cuts, such as the end of a 2-percentage-point cut in Social Security payroll taxes and extended unemployment benefits for many jobless workers, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget office.
The non-partisan Tax Policy Center estimates middle-class families would pay about $2,000 a year more in taxes, or about 4%. The the top 1% of taxpayers would see their tax bills go up around 7%, or about $120,000. Those increases, along with spending cuts, would cut the projected federal budget deficit nearly in half -- but it would also threaten millions of jobs, especially those dependent on government contracting, and risk a return to recession, the CBO found.
The plan administration officials presented to Republicans on Thursday called for $1.6 trillion in new taxes, including letting income tax rates go back up for families making more than $250,000 -- a big element of President Barack Obama's successful re-election campaign. Obama also wants to close loopholes, limit deductions, raise the estate tax rate to 2009 levels and increase taxes on capital gains and dividend taxes.
The proposal also calls for additional spending, including a new $50 billion stimulus package, a home mortgage refinancing plan, and an extension of unemployment insurance benefits. It would also extend the payroll tax cut, passed early in Obama's administration. In return, multiple sources told CNN that Obama is offering $400 billion in new cuts to Medicare and other entitlement programs -- with specifics decided next year.
Speaking on "Fox News Sunday," Boehner said the talks are "going nowhere," and blamed the administration for not taking the Republicans seriously.
"They won the election, (but) they must have forgotten that Republicans continue to hold the majority in the House. But the president's idea of a negotiation is, 'Roll over and do what I ask,' " said Boehner, R-Ohio. He said he was "flabbergasted" by the plan Geithner put forward last week: "I looked at him and I said, 'You can't be serious.' I've just never seen anything like it."
"We've put a serious offer on the table by putting revenues up there to try to get this question resolved, but the White House has responded with virtually nothing," Boehner told Fox.
Republicans have said they are willing to raise revenue by closing tax loopholes and ending deductions, but have resisted raising rates. More than 230 GOP representatives and 40 senators have pledged to oppose tax increases, and the man behind that pledge -- conservative activist Grover Norquist -- told reporters he hoped Congress and the administration would extend the Bush tax cuts a second time.
Norquist said the expiration of those tax cuts would be bad, but the automatic spending cuts would be "a good thing." And the anti-tax pledge, which several leading Republicans have edged away from in recent weeks, "has helped the debate," he said.
"Obviously people who want bigger government are very unhappy with the popularity and the strength and the credibility of the pledge, so they attack it because they want to raise taxes so they can spend more money," he said.
Geithner said Republicans "are in a hard place, and they're having a tough time trying to figure out what they can do, what they can get support from their members for."
"That's understandable," Geithner said. "This is very difficult for them, and we might need to give them a little more time to figure out where they go next."
But Sen. Lindsey Graham,