Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Doomed? Damned? Or Deal? (Federal Edition)

Late last week, it looked like a deal to avoid the "Fiscal Cliff" was near. Yesterday, a deal seemed so close that Beltway reporters could smell one from their offices. But today, it all looks to be falling apart.

Why? Come on, we all know why. But if you're actually still wondering why, I'll let Jonathan Chait explain.

But [House Speaker John] Boehner isn’t going to get a chance to make his plan work, because Republicans themselves have revolted against it. Heritage Action, the conservative “think tank,” is planning a public denunciation. It is being openly denounced by such luminaries as Marco Rubio and Jim Jordan. Robert Costa reports in National Review that the plan may be dead on arrival. "A lot of us don't trust Boehner right now," one House Republican tells The Wall Street Journal editorial page.

What’s amazing about this reaction is that Plan B is not really a legislative proposal but a tactical maneuver to increase Boehner’s leverage. That is to say, even if Republicans find it substantively objectionable, they have no reason to oppose it since it is not designed to take effect. They opposed it anyway and have made little effort to hide their opposition. If Boehner can’t rally his troops behind a negotiating ploy like this, there’s no chance he can get them to support an actual deal Obama would sign.

And the conservative revolt shows something important: Boehner does not have control over his own caucus. Obama is trying to cut a deal with Boehner, and he may succeed, but in all likelihood such a “success” would lead to a reprise of the 2011 negotiations, when House Republicans threw the deal back in Boehner’s face. Obama better be planning to negotiate something in January.

So Boehner actually thought his "Plan B" would automatically create/revive Democratic discord and singlehandedly shift both public opinion and the bulk of the "leverage" to House Republicans. Oh, snap. That just backfired on him.

And now, everyone in The Beltway is wondering what might come next. Well, whatever comes next will likely involve "Senator Badass".

“This isn’t going to be a situation where we’re going to vote on a particular provision in the bill, it’s going to be a framework to do something about the long-term security of this country,” Reid said when asked about Social Security. “I admire and appreciate very much the president showing the American people how reasonable he’s trying to be. Significant tax increases, significant cuts.”

Reid has not been in the negotiating room with Obama and Boehner, though he has been weighing in and keeping tabs on their progress through frequent contact with the White House and the speaker’s staff.

But his comments about the president’s bill, despite his stance on Social Security, are a sign of how much more closely coordinated the two powerful Democrats have become since the last time Obama and Boehner were holding private negotiations, during the debt ceiling debacle of mid-2011.

“My impression is that Reid is comfortable with Obama’s tough negotiating stance, is kept fully briefed by the White House and has opportunities to flag any components of a potential deal that he finds problematic in the Senate,” said Thomas Mann, a congressional expert with the Brookings Institution.

Signs Tuesday hinted that the process toward a fiscal cliff deal might now be shifting to the Senate.

Yesterday, it seemed like there was some distance between Harry Reid and President Obama because Obama's preliminary deal with Boehner included the very controversial "chained CPI" plan to cut the COLA (cost of living inflation adjustment) formula for Social Security benefits. That enraged many progressives, so much so that a new possibility was emerging, one of a "Fiscal Cliff" deal being shot down by the left.

Yet this week, Harry Reid has been pretty mum about this proposed deal. Now, we have a better idea as to why. He may have known all along that this deal is DOA ("dead on arrival") in the House, and that he may (again) have to cajole Senate Republicans into agreeing to cajole Boehner to allow enough House Republicans to vote for a final compromise. And perhaps Reid remembered how badly Republicans fumbled their last attempt at "budget hostage" in 2011, so he and Obama may now be waiting to see how much more radical right chaos they (and the entire country) must endure before they can get Senate Republican leaders behind a deal that most Democrats can live with.

So now, the $1,400,000,000,000 question is whether the nation will have to endure some "Fiscal Cliff-diving" next month. And right now, that's back to being a question with no definite answer. This is why Republicans, with all their "Plan B" nonsense, are back to Square 1: Do they really want to be blamed for a possible "double dip recession" and more pain being inflicted on working class families at the worst possible time? How Republican leaders on Capitol Hill answer that question will help us figure out the answer to our earlier question.

No comments:

Post a Comment