Debt limit negotiations continue

Speaker of House the John Boehner, R-OH, backed by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-VA (L) and Republican Whip Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-CA, discusses the Republican plan called “Cut, Cap and Balance” to avoid default which would occur if the debt limit ceiling is reached on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on July 19, 2011. UPI/Roger L. Wollenberg

Yesterday we saw a flurry of activity and plenty of consternation as the media and politicians tried to figure out what was going on behind closed doors. TPM has a very helpful account of what happened yesterday, and this passage sticks out:

Democrats favored one proposal: if Congress failed to pass tax reform by date-certain, then the top-bracket Bush tax cuts would expire — a hefty stick that would encourage Republicans to cut a deal. Boehner never agreed to that — and now that the grand bargain has been revived, Democrats are worried that Obama has abandoned that trigger, and perhaps his insistence on a trigger of any kind.

Multiple reports surfaced late Thursday that a trade-off might be in the works: Republicans would agree to the tax trigger if Obama and Dems would agree to nix the health care law’s individual mandate — an unpopular, but crucial component of the reforms Obama signed last year. This is precisely the sort of swap House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) has argued for recently.

Referring to negotiations with Democrats, Cantor last week told reporters, “Every time the discussion started about, well, Republicans need to raise taxes, I would proffer back, then you put ObamaCare repeal on the table.”

By multiple accounts, Democrats left Thursday’s White House meeting unhappy.

I like this potential deal for many reasons. First, decoupling the Bush tax cuts so that those for the wealthy would expire is a big deal and would be a huge win for Obama and the Democrats. It would be a serious concession from the GOP, and I have no problem with the idea that this happens in the future if it’s locked in. The statement from Grover Norquist yesterday about the Bush tax cuts is a huge tell that the GOP is seriously considering this.

On the individual mandate, this has been the single most unpopular provision of health care reform. If this could be replaced by some kind of annual open enrollment period with penalties for people who don’t buy insurance so they can’t game the system, then this would be acceptable from a policy point of view. It would also be a significant positive from a political point of view, as it would remove the most controversial issue surrounding health care reform and dilute it as a political issue.

The Democrats were quiet last night, which tells me they aren’t out there trying to kill this potential deal, even if they aren’t thrilled about it. I just saw Claire McCaskill just said on MSNBC that she was open to it. Also, as pointed out in the article, Boehner can’t get behind it until the Cut, Cap and Balance bill gets killed in the Senate, so this won’t move in public until after today’s vote.

I will be stunned if a grand bargain actually happens, but if it does it will be a huge victory for President Obama, John Boehner and the country.

  

The GOP’s Eric Cantor problem

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) speaks at the Faith & Freedom Conference and Strategy Briefing in Washington, June 3, 2011. REUTERS/Molly Riley (UNITED STATES – Tags: POLITICS)

The GOP discipline has completely broken down over the past week in the debt ceiling negotiations. All year they’ve been playing a game of Russian Roulette with the economy, trying to use a potential default to force massive spending cuts. In many ways the strategy worked well, as President Obama and the Democrats put just about everything on the table.

But, as usual, the ideologues are overplaying their hand, so much so that Mitch McConnell buckled under the pressure of the business community and basically said he’d let the president raise the debt ceiling without any cuts.

The guy at the center of all this is Eric Cantor, whose either too stupid or too ambitious to take yes for an answer. He can get massive cuts if he just includes some revenues in a deal, but instead he’s pushing the talks to the brink of disaster. Last night he also tried to imply that the President lost his cool in the last meeting, though all other accounts tell a different story.

Meanwhile, the polls are starting to shift in Obama’s favor with regard to the debt and the economy – at least when compared to congressional Republicans. That’s what happens when smarmy guys like Cantor become the face of the GOP.

Dana Milbank nailed it yesterday, even before Cantor’s latest performance last night in the negotiations where he again refused to budge.

He draws out the vowels in a style that is part southern, part smarty-pants. Had young Cantor spoken like this at his prep school in Richmond, the bigger boys may well have wiped that sneer off his face. Yet even then, Cantor was accustomed to having things his way. According to Cantor’s hometown Richmond Times-Dispatch, the quotation he chose to accompany his yearbook photo was “I want what I want when I want it.”

What Cantor wants now is power — and he is prepared to risk the full faith and credit of the United States to get it. In a primacy struggle with House Speaker John Boehner, he has done a deft job of aligning himself with Tea Party House members in opposition to any meaningful deal to resolve the debt. If the U.S. government defaults, it will have much to do with Cantor.

His antics from last night are being branded as childish, and the Democrats smell blood and are now taking direct aim at Cantor. Harry Reid is more than happy to negotiate now with Mitch McConnell who is desperate to avoid the potential catastrophe that he and other Republicans created.

They clearly thought Barack Obama would fold, but they were mistaken. Obama has called their bluff, and they look like panicked fools at the poker table.

  

Digging in their heels . . .

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, June 29, 2011. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (UNITED STATES – Tags: POLITICS)

It looks like we’re heading for an ugly end game for the debt ceiling confrontation. Ezra Klein explains:

The best advice I’ve gotten for assessing the debt-ceiling negotiations was to “watch for the day when the White House goes public.” As long as the Obama administration was refusing to attack Republicans publicly, my source said, they believed they could cut a deal. And that held true. They were quiet when the negotiations were going on. They were restrained after Eric Cantor and Jon Kyl walked out last week. Press Secretary Jay Carney simply said, “We are confident that we can continue to seek common ground and that we will achieve a balanced approach to deficit reduction.” But today they went public. The negotiations have failed.

“The primary goal of President Obama’s presser, which just wrapped up, was obvious,” writes Greg Sargent. “He was clearly out to pick a major public fight with Republicans over tax cuts for the rich.” That’s exactly right. But he didn’t want this fight. He wanted a deal. And he wasn’t able to get one that the White House considered even minimally acceptable. After putting more than $2 trillion of spending cuts on the table, they weren’t even able to get $400 billion — about a sixth of the total — in tax increases.

Klein goes on to explain that things will likely get ugly. Both sides are digging in their heals, and only a crisis or market meltdown will get them to move. Perhaps something else will change the dynamic, like the proposal coming from Kent Conrad and the Senate Democrats, but that seems unlikely.

As Klein explained, Obama has been quiet because he was hoping for a deal. Now that the Republicans want a fight, they are going to get one. Nobody likes taxes, but the notion that we can’t have any new revenues, including closing corporate tax breaks, when we’re facing a $15 trillion debt is totally absurd. The polls are in Obama’s favor when it comes to increasing taxes on the wealthy.

That said, the GOP is currently run by the extremists in the Tea Party who won’t compromise on anything. It’s probably going to get ugly . . .

  

Donald Trump won’t go away

The Donald Trump circus is gearing up again. This time the Donald posted a video on YouTube to mostly take aim at the GOP to make excuses for why he ended his fake campaign.

You have to watch it. He basically threatens to run as an independent at the end if he doesn’t like the GOP nominee, so he’s determined to stay in the news.

It starts with the absurd allegation that the GOP made a terrible deal with Obama during the lame duck session, even though this occurred BEFORE he started his fake campaign began.

He then moves on to a stinging critique of the Ryan Medicare plan. In this section the DNC couldn’t have written it any better. Trump says the GOP has a “death wish” with Ryan’s plan to turn Medicare into a voucher system, and in this respect he could be come the GOP’s worst nightmare. The Ryan plan was always political suicide, so in this respect Trump actually has a point.

But then he goes on to take a cheap shot at Eric Cantor. I personally think Cantor’s insistence that any disaster relief for the tornado victims be offset by other spending cuts was politically stupid and insensitive. But Trump of course goes over the top and basically accuses Cantor of not wanting to give “any money to the tornado victims.” This is typical Trump bullshit, but now he’s aiming it at the right. I wonder how all those tea party folks who bought into Trump’s disgraceful attacks on Obama and his birth certificate feel about this clown now?

  

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