By Roberta Rampton
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - New comments from top Republican lawmaker John Boehner slamming health care reforms illustrate how hard it will be for Washington to reach a deficit reduction deal when talks resume next week, analysts said on Thursday.
President Barack Obama and the U.S. Congress will begin negotiating next week on a plan that could avert tax hikes and spending cuts set to begin in January that economists worry could push the U.S. economy over the "fiscal cliff" and into recession.
Boehner did not explicitly mention the "fiscal cliff" talks in an opinion piece published in the Cincinnati Enquirer on Wednesday. But he argued the nation cannot afford the costs of Obama's 2010 health care reform law, given the United State's sluggish economy and massive $16 trillion debt.
"That's why I've been clear that the law has to stay on the table as both parties discuss ways to solve our nation's massive debt challenge," said Boehner, who is a key player in the talks.
Boehner's comments show it won't be easy to reach a deal on the thorny tax and spending issues, said Greg Valliere, chief political strategist at Potomac Research Group in Washington.
"There's an enormous gulf between the two parties on the details," he said, noting it is still possible that Obama and Congress may agree by January to broad spending and tax measures, and then take months afterwards to iron out details.
"Plunging off the cliff, then passing a tax cut in January that excludes the rich -- is still a very live option," Valliere said.
Analysts said Boehner's renewed critique of the health care law is designed to appeal to Republicans in the House of Representatives who have voted more than 30 times to repeal it.
The law aims to extend health coverage to more than 30 million uninsured Americans starting in 2014. It also contains measures designed to contain the costs of America's $2.6 trillion healthcare system, the most expensive in the world.
Republicans had promised to repeal the law, which they call "Obamacare", if they won the November presidential elections.
But Obama won, and Democrats kept their majority in the Senate. Last June, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the reforms. Continued...