Now this is encouraging. I’m told that representatives of major unions and progressive groups met privately this morning with senior Obama administration officials at the White House — and were pleased with what they heard.
Things can always change at a moment’s notice. But attendees at this meeting came away convinced — for now — that the White House firmly believes it has the leverage in the fiscal cliff talks, and has no intention of budging on the demand for higher tax rates from the rich or on other core priorities.
Indeed, one person at the meeting — which included people from the AFLCIO, AFSCME, SEIU, MoveOn and others — came away convinced that the White House would ultimately prove willing to go over the fiscal cliff if necessary, rather than give ground on core demands, though this is not by any means a desired option and isn’t being discussed as a strategic possibility.
The attendee tells me the White House is cool to the idea of going over the cliff, but added: “Would they if it’s between that and compromising their core principles? I was left with the impression that they would.”
“They remain in the same place: They expect taxes to go up on the wealthy and to protect Medicare and Medicaid benefits,” the attendee added. “They feel confident that they don’t have to compromise.”
White House officials also signaled in the meeting that they are going to insist that Republicans agree to resolve the need to raise the debt ceiling as part of the fiscal talks — and won’t abide a separate fight over it, attendees said. Also key: Attendees got the impression the White House does not view this looming debt ceiling battle in the same terms as the 2011 fight, where Republicans had the leverage.
“They don’t seem to have the same fear now,” the attendee said. “They intend to get this wrapped up in these negotiations, and don’t intend to have a separate fight. Their position is this needs to be resolved all at once.”
“One of the key takeaways was that they want this resolved,” a second attendee said of the discussion of the debt ceiling. “They think that now is the time to do it."
Anything can happen in the days ahead. And it’s always possible that White House officials are projecting such a resolute attitude to these groups to mollify them; after all, they are pressuring the White House to stand firm on core priorities. But these groups are very attuned to any signs of a potential cave. So if they’re saying privately they are happy with what they’re hearing, that could be a good sign.