There are a lot of good articles running through what happened between Thursday night, when a deal seemed likely, and Friday evening, when the talks fell apart. New reports suggest that Boehner is trying to prepare a deal by tomorrow evening, to prevent the markets from dropping Monday. So here’s the short version of what just happened, and where we’re likely to be going:
On Tuesday, the Gang of Six proposed a deal that would raise tax revenues by $2 trillion — which showed there was support among Senate Republicans for a deal that raised taxes by about $2 trillion. On Thursday, congressional Democrats rebelled over reports that the deal Boehner and Obama were negotiating had only $800 billion in new revenue, and it wasn’t even clear how those would be achieved. That night, Obama called Boehner looking for about $400 billion more in revenue to have something he could sell to Democrats. That would have brought the deal from $800 billion in revenue to $1.2 trillion in revenue. He didn’t get a call back until the next day at 5:30 p.m. — by which point the call was unnecessary. Boehner had already told the media that he was leaving the talks.
Republicans are emphasizing that the White House went from asking for $800 billion in revenue to $1.2 trillion. The word you’re hearing from them is “reneged,” but the White House emphasizes that negotiations were ongoing, and both sides were asking for more as they tried to figure out what they could both agree on and pass through Congress. Boehner, for instance, wanted further cuts to Medicaid, a trigger that would repeal the individual mandate and the Independent Payment Advisory Board if the entitlement cuts didn’t come through, and a tighter cap on discretionary spending. “They make it seem like the president made some ultimatum on $1.2 trillion in revenue,” says a senior administration official. “He didn’t. He said, ‘If you can’t do this, let’s figure out what we can do.’ ”
The “what we can do” would probably have been to ratchet back the entitlement cuts. Or maybe another solution would have been found. It’s hard to say because Boehner didn’t come back with a counteroffer. He simply left the negotiations.
But let’s zoom out on where the negotiations left off. Spending cuts would have totaled about $3 trillion, with a bit less than a trillion dollars of that coming from entitlements and other forms of mandatory spending. Revenue increases — none of which would have come from raising marginal tax rates — would have been between $800 billion and $1.2 trillion. The package would have extended the unemployment insurance and payroll tax cut provisions passed in the 2010 tax deal. All in all, that’s about a trillion dollars less in revenues than the Simpson-Bowles/Gang of Six deals advocated, and about $2.6 trillion less in revenue than simply letting the Bush tax cuts expire in 2012.
There’s a question as to whether this was the very best deal Republicans could get or simply close to it. But it’s hard to believe that it was so bad that it ended the talks. What seems likelier is that Boehner spent some time between Thursday and Friday talking to his members and found that his party simply didn’t support a deal with the White House. For one thing, a deal would include some amount of revenue, and that was a hard sell under any circumstances. For another, letting the president look like a dealmaker would potentially dim the GOP’s chances of retaking the White House in 2012. As my colleague George Will put it Thursday, a deal “would enable President Obama to run away from his record and run as a debt-reducing centrist.”
And so Boehner walked. Fundamentally, this looks like the same calculation that ended the last round of talks over a 4 trillion deal. What’s different this time is Boehner’s plan B: The Speaker of the House appears to believe that a deal struck between congressional leadership would perhaps be easier to sell to his members. Since it’s hard to see Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid making deeper concessions than Obama did, it’s hard to see why that would be true, save that the deal might not look like such a victory for the White House.
Perhaps taking the benefit for Obama off the table will be enough. I’m doubtful. It’s more likely that what we’re really doing now is wasting time until the markets plummet and Boehner’s members decide that a deal is better than no deal. And there’s a very good chance that the first major show of market concern could come tomorrow night, when the Asian markets open. Boehner is hoping to present a plan by then, but a plan is very different from a deal. A plan is something politicians can come up with. A deal, we’re increasingly finding, is something that we need the markets to force.
By: Ezra Klein, Columnist, The Washington Post, July 23, 2011
Negotiating with House Republicans isn’t just difficult because they refuse to compromise; it’s also because they don’t even appreciate the point of the exercise. Told, for example, that failure on the debt ceiling would lead to a disaster, the House GOP simply doesn’t believe the evidence.
It’s challenging enough trying to craft an agreement when the parties have the same goal. But what happens when the crew of the Titanic says, “The captain’s wrong; icebergs are no big deal”?
The trick is finding someone the crazies find credible. (thanks to T.K.)
Republican leaders in the House have begun to prepare their troops for politically painful votes to raise the nation’s debt limit, offering warnings and concessions to move the hard-line majority toward a compromise that would avert a federal default. […]
At a closed-door meeting Friday morning, GOP leaders turned to their most trusted budget expert, Rep. Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, to explain to rank-and-file members what many others have come to understand: A fiscal meltdown could occur if Congress fails to raise the debt ceiling. […]
The warnings appeared to have softened the views of at least some House members who, until now, were inclined to dismiss statements by administration officials, business leaders and outside economists that the economic impact would be dire if the federal government were suddenly unable to pay its bills. [emphasis added]
Right-wing freshman Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.) said he found the presentation, particularly the parts about skyrocketing interest rates, “sobering.”
Oh, now it’s “sobering”? We’re 17 days before the drop-dead crisis deadline, and now it’s dawning on some House Republicans that they’re not only playing with matches, but may actually torch the entire economy?
At this point, of course, I’ll take progress wherever I can find it. If some of the House GOP’s madness is “softening,” maybe they’ll be slightly more inclined to be responsible.
But I can’t help but find it interesting the limited pool of individuals Republicans are willing to listen to. The Treasury tells the House GOP caucus members they have to raise the debt ceiling, and Republicans don’t care. The Federal Reserve tells them, and they still don’t care. House Speaker John Boehner tells them, and that doesn’t work, either. Business leaders, governors, and economists tell them, and Republicans ignore all of them.
But Paul Ryan warns of a meltdown and all of a sudden, the House GOP is willing to pay attention.
I guess we should be thankful the radical House Budget Committee chairman is only wrong 90% of the time, and not 100%.
By: Steve Benen, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly-Political Animal, July 16, 2011
Among tea party voters, there is a belief that the right is always getting sold out by the political establishment. In their telling, Reagan-era conservatives agreed to an amnesty for illegal immigrants on the condition that the law would be enforced going forward, then deeply regretted having done so. George H.W. Bush broke his “no new taxes” pledge. The Contract with America failed to deliver on many of its promises. George W. Bush joined forces with Ted Kennedy on No Child Left Behind, changed positions on campaign finance reform, and closed out his presidency by bailing out undeserving Wall Street firms. In all this, he was abetted by GOP legislators.
These tea party voters are sometimes justified in feeling betrayed. Other times, they misinterpret what happened. Right or wrong, however, they’re powerfully averse to compromise. Mere mention of the word aggrieves them. They don’t think of it as a means of bringing about a mutually beneficial change in the status quo, where one of their priorities is addressed in return for giving up something on an issue they care less about. When they hear the word compromise, the knee-jerk reaction is to oppose it. In their experience, going along with compromise is tantamount to getting screwed. The insistence that pols “stand on principle” is a defense mechanism.
This attitude helps explain why tea partiers are so frequently attracted to relatively inexperienced politicians like Sarah Palin, Marco Rubio, and Michele Bachmann. More experienced pols have been forced to compromise as the price of achieving something, just as a President Palin, Rubio or Bachmann would be forced to compromise in order to pass the parts of their agenda most important to them. Having gotten so little of substance done in their careers, however, they haven’t yet had to give up anything significant, so they can maintain the fiction that they never would. As Daniel Larison puts it, “Bachmann’s lack of achievements is in some ways a blessing for her, because it is proof that she has never compromised. In today’s GOP, that is very valuable, and she doesn’t have many competitors in the race who can say the same.”
The tea party movement should know better. The Founding Fathers engaged in an endless series of compromises. Abraham Lincoln compromised. Franklin D. Roosevelt compromised. So did Ronald Reagan. Every consequential leader in the history of the United States has had to compromise.
It defies common sense to think the next Republican president will be different. So why are tea party voters asking themselves, “Which of these presidential candidates is least likely to compromise?” They ought to be pondering different questions, such as: “What style of negotiation and compromise does this candidate employ? How much have they gotten in the past for what they gave up?”
“Do the issues they’ve treated as most important align with my priorities?”
Viewed in that light, Mitch Daniels’ talk of a truce on social issues in order to focus on the budget deficit should’ve appealed to a large faction of tea partiers. He laid out his priorities. They aligned perfectly with tea party rhetoric: it is a movement focused on economic issues and individual liberty far more than social conservatism if you trust what its typical adherents themselves assert. But even tea partiers who shared Daniels’ priorities didn’t like that he talked of compromise.
They got self-righteous about it.
Tea partiers would be better off accepting that every politician cares about some things more than others, that there is no such thing as successfully governing America as an uncompromising social, economic and national security conservative, and that pretending otherwise results in choosing candidates who are marginally less likely to choose the best compromises.
Another way to put this is that if tea party voters were less naive about the centrality of compromise to politics — and more willing to believe that a principled person can compromise — they’d feel less victimized by an unchangeable fact of democracy. They’d also be more frequently empowered to bring about policy outcomes that better align with what they care about most.
By: Conor Friedersdorf, Associate Editor, The Atlantic, July 15, 2011
I guess this was inevitable.
John Boehner was driven to tears again today. This time it happened at a closed-door meeting of House Republicans.
According to sources inside the meeting, it happened while Boehner was speaking to the group about the latest on his negotiations with Democrats over government funding. Boehner talked about his meeting yesterday with President Obama and then, in a rousing conclusion, he thanked the House Republicans for standing by him and supporting him through these tense negotiations.
The Republican conference responded with a standing ovation for their speaker.
As you could imagine, that prompted the Speaker to cry.
Sure, but is there any chance the crying could become tears of joy after striking a deal? Time is obviously running out in a hurry — we’re now counting down by the number of hours, not the number of days — but there’s been some movement this afternoon.
Roll Call reported that the party’s leaders are at least talking again, and “there were indications that progress was being made.” Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told reporters, “I feel better about it today than I did yesterday at the same time.”
This was not a unanimous view. Politico reported that “leaders from both parties are more pessimistic about cutting a deal before the government runs out of money.”
There was reportedly some progress on the spending-cut target. Boehner moved the goalposts this week, demanding $40 billion in cuts after agreeing privately to $33 billion, but top aides today apparently met to explore another compromise between the two numbers. The bigger hurdle, apparently, is the GOP demand for policy “riders,” which right-wing House Republicans continue to treat as having equal importance to the cuts themselves.
How party leaders can work around this is a mystery to me.
The odds notwithstanding, if a compromise is reached, what about the rule GOP leaders imposed on themselves, mandating that a bill is available for three days before a vote? In this case, Republicans are prepared to waive the rule, if there’s a deal to even vote on.
In the meantime, the Koch-financed Americans for Prosperity held a rally this afternoon across the street from the Capitol, with several dozen right-wing activists on hand to listen to speeches from Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), Reps. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), and others. The Republican voters chanted, “Shut it down!” during the rally, and every other sign at the rally urged the GOP to shut down the government.
I think we can say with confidence which side of the aisle is “rooting for a government shutdown.”
By: Steve Benen, Political Animal, Washington Monthly, April 6, 2011