Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner says President Barack Obama is ready for difficult concessions to reach a deficit deal, but Republican lawmakers must first commit to higher tax rates on the rich and specify what additional spending cuts they want in a deal to avoid the looming "fiscal cliff."

U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

In a series of interviews with the Sunday TV talks shows, Geithner says: "The ball really is with them now."

Geithner is one of the White House's chief negotiators with Capitol Hill. Last Thursday, he presented congressional leaders with Obama's blueprint for heading off the combination of tax increases and spending cuts that will take effect beginning in January if Washington doesn't act to stop it.

But House Speaker John Boehner says he was "flabbergasted" by his meeting with Geithner. The Ohio Republican tells "Fox News Sunday" that he told Geithner: "You can't be serious?" Noting the few weeks left before the new year, Boehner says time has been lost with what he calls "nonsense."

Boehner called it "silliness" that the White House was, among other things, asking Congress to give up its power to set the nation's debt limit.

President Barack Obama's plan calls for $1.6 trillion in higher taxes over the next decade. Boehner, R-Ohio, says he's willing to rethink tax deductions for the wealthiest Americans, but declined to provide further specifics. The White House says the GOP tax proposals so far wouldn't pull in as much revenue as they claim.

Geithner says the public sparring is just "normal political theater," adding that he believes the two sides are "moving closer together."

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)