Dec. 5, 2012 at 4:33 PM ET
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geither told CNBC Wednesday that Republicans are "making a little bit of progress" in "fiscal cliff" talks but said the Obama administration was "absolutely" ready to go over the cliff if the GOP doesn't agree to raise tax rates on the wealthy.
"I think they're making a little bit of progress," Geithner said of the Republican proposal released on Monday calling for $800 billion in new tax revenue. "They're clearly moving and figuring out how to try to move further."
But Geithner said the White House would "absolutely" go over the fiscal cliff — triggering over $600 billion in automatic spending cuts and tax increases — unless tax rates increase on the top 2 percent of wage earners.
"What we're trying to do is put in place a comprehensive, balanced set of fiscal reforms that put us back on the path of living within our means," Geithner told "Closing Bell."
Geithner, who is the Obama administration's lead negotiator in the cliff talks, added that if Republicans are willing to accept higher rates, "we think we can do something really good for the economy. We can make the government use the taxpayers money much more efficiently, lock in some spending savings and do some long-term reforms to entitlements."
President Barack Obama told business leaders earlier in the day that a deal could be reached in a week if Republicans would accept higher tax rates on the wealthiest Americans.
"We're not insisting on rates out of spite, but rather we need to raise a certain amount of revenue," Obama told the Business Roundtable, an association representing chief executives of large U.S. firms.
The Republicans have proposed $800 billion in additional tax revenues over 10 years as part any solution to the country's fiscal problems. Geithner said that Republicans haven't told us how they would raise the $800 billion dollars and what the mix of rates and limitations on deductions they would support, he said.
The President has proposed raising taxes by $1.6 trillion over the coming decade, cuts to Medicare and another $50 billion in stimulus spending, but has largely exempted Social Security from budget cuts.