Monday, July 11, 2011

The INSIDE SCOOP on the status of the deficit/debit ceiling talks

Here is a roundup of some of the inside scoop regarding the deficit/debt ceiling talks, who is winning and who is losing, who is gaining power and who is losing it, and what the future holds.

This from Mike Allen at Politico:

Email from a top Democratic aide, re last night’s White House meeting: “First off, a number of folks in the room were struck by the fact that Cantor did virtually all of the talking for House Republicans, while Boehner basically just sat there. Second, Reid expressed frustration that every time we try to do something big on the deficit, Republicans walk away from the table. He cited the fiscal commission (when the 7 Republican cosponsors voted against the commission's findings), Coburn walking away from the Gang of 6, Cantor walking away from the Biden talks, and now Boehner walking away from the big deal in the latest round. Differences over substance aside, his point was about process - we're never going to get anything big done for the country if Republicans keep walking away from the table every time talks get serious.”

--Another top Dem. aide emails: “To date, Congressional Republicans have voted no on the Simpson-Bowles commission, pulled out of the Gang of Six, abandoned the Biden-led talks, and rejected the President's 'grand bargain'-style offer. The more they keep rejecting compromises for averting a default, the more likely the public is to hold them accountable for the consequences.”


This also from Politico on what happened:

Speaker John Boehner’s decision not to “go big” on a debt-limit deal is the starkest demonstration yet of the limits of the Ohio Republican’s power.

The internal GOP backlash against his efforts to secure a package of $4 trillion in spending cuts and revenue-raisers revealed that Boehner sometimes is little more than the first among equals — capable of synthesizing Republican sentiments but unwilling to drive them.

Tax hikes, by any name, are a nonstarter for a party that forged its brand on the mantra of lower taxes and less government, and Boehner’s willingness to talk rates with President Barack Obama — particularly in the context of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-Va.) refusal to do so — raised eyebrows within his conference. The uproar among Republicans, on and off Capitol Hill, forced Boehner to back away from the “grand bargain,” setting up a testy White House meeting where little was accomplished Sunday night.

“It’s crazy to think the speaker was considering a trillion [dollars] in tax increases. After all, we’re the anti-tax party,” said one veteran Republican lawmaker close to leadership. “Cantor brought him, the economy and our party back from the abyss. Cantor is strengthened, clearly. And it’s another example of the speaker almost slipping beyond the will of the GOP conference.”

Keith Koffler at White House Dossier:

 The subtext to this [Boehner walking out on the $4 trillion deal] is the budget deal in April, which infuriated many in the GOP caucus – particularly the Tea Party faction and newly elected members – when it became clear that the $38 billion in promised spending cuts would never be fully realized and most of the cuts that would occur wouldn’t be made right away.

Conservatives decided there would be no more illusory deals, and that they would hold the line against new taxes, believing that the public had given them control of the House to cut spending and resist tax increases and would be punished for doing otherwise.

Boehner, viewed as a consummate Washington dealmaker, would in future negotiations be watched by his rival, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.). One source told me that, basically, if a deal was on the table this summer to increase taxes, Boehner could do what he wanted, but Cantor would stand up and walk out of the room. And Cantor’s following among conservatives is such that Boehner can’t really make a deal without him.

And that’s exactly what happened. Cantor walked out of the Biden talks over potential tax increases, and Boehner’s deal with Obama was scuttled this weekend when he realized he couldn’t get the support of his fellow GOP leaders or his caucus for a deal that raised taxes.

Steve Benen at Washington Monthly:

On Thursday, President Obama asked the top eight officials in Congress — four from each party — and Vice President Biden to express a preference about a debt-reduction target. Should the negotiations focus on a more modest series of cuts ($2 trillion), a larger package in line with the Biden-led talks ($3 trillion to $3.5 trillion), or a more ambitious approach (roughly $4 trillion)?

Of the 10 people in the room, eight, including all the Democrats, said they want to go big. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was one of them, “enthusiastically” endorsing the notion of a grand bargain, telling Republican lawmakers that bold action is necessary, and that this is why he wanted to be Speaker in the first place.

Two of the 10 balked. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) said there’s no point in trying to strike a grand bargain because rank-and-file Republicans will never accept a compromise on revenue.

[T]he political issue that stands out for me is realizing just how weak a Speaker Boehner really is The Speaker of the House is arguably one of the most powerful offices in the government, at least in theory. It’s supposed to be within Boehner’s power to simply tell his caucus what they have a responsibility to do, and demand their fealty.

But a leader with no followers is, by definition, weak. Boehner may be the Speaker, but as he’s quickly realizing, he’s taking the orders, not giving them.

In a different post, Benen says Obama may have just won a tactical victory:

All things being equal, this certainly looks like a tactical win for the White House, at least at this point. From the perspective of the political establishment, the president was willing to do something ambitious, even risking the ire of his party’s base. Congressional Republicans, meanwhile, have now said they don’t want a massive debt-reduction package if it means asking the rich to sacrifice even a little.

Put it this way: as of this morning, which side of the political divide appears more concerned with fiscal responsibility*? The president with the plan to cut the debt by $4 trillion or the House majority that cares most about tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, none of which are paid for?


Senator Dick Durbin on the prospects for a deal:

George Stephanopoulos talked to Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D, Illinois)  about the Sunday meeting at the White House and the possibility of a deal.  Watch the video here: 

No comments: