The Washington Post

The Morning Plum

* In a role reversal, it’s now Obama who’s pushing for the big deficit deal:

The key thing to understand about the events of the weekend is that they brought about a remarkable role reversal. After months in which GOP leaders were challenging the President to join them in seeking a major deficit reduction package, it is now Obama who is pushing hardest for a $4 trillion deficit compromise, while GOP leaders are the ones pushing for a more modest deal — all because they can’t tolerate a compromise that includes any revenue increases of any kind. If the White House’s strategy has been in part about maneuvering Republicans into the position of appearing to be the main obstacles to compromise, it seems to have succeeded.

After all, it was only weeks ago that John Boehner was the one urging Obama to take the political plunge into big time debt reduction, telling him, “let’s lock arms and we’ll jump out of the boat together.” But Obama then called Boehner’s bluff by urging all concerned to “go big,” and over the weekend, Boehner abruptly announced that a $4 trillion deal that includes meaningful revenue increases is a political impossibility. Now it is Obama aides who are fanning out across the Sunday shows to push for the big deal. Now it is Obama who is telling Congressional leaders that they can expect to meet every single day from now until a big deal is reached. And at his presser today, you can expect Obama again to push GOP leaders to abandon their intransigence on revenues in pursuit of a major compromise.

The White House has hoped to reassure independents by pointing out that Obama is the “adult in the room” on deficit reduction and the primary seeker of compromise among squabbling partisans. Whether the President’s current role as driver of the talks will pay off politically in the end is an open question: If the deal collapses, it’s unclear how the political chips will fall, and it’s unclear whether the deficit really matters to voters in any case. But in the short term at least, the White House has begun to achieve politically what it wanted, and you have to assume they are pleased by some of the headlines this morning.

* Why is a smaller deal any easier? But it remains unclear why it would be any easier to reach a smaller deal, as Republicans want, because as Dems reminded Republicans last night, the White House and Dems are insisting that increased revenues be part of that deal, too.

Bottom line: Large or modest, Republicans won’t agree to any deal that includes revenue increases, and until that changes, there won’t be any compromise.

* Conservatives to GOP: Don’t budge one inch on revenues: In another sign of the right’s total intransigence on revenues of any kind, the Club for Growth is going up with a new national ad putting Republicans on notice: Hold firm against any tax hikes, or else.

* Eric Cantor emerges as leading anti-tax warrior: Even if the White House likes its position, you also have to assume Cantor likes his, too, as reflected in headlines like these:

Cantor Heads to White House Meeting Fighting Tax Increases

* Cantor gives thumbs down to closing tax loopholes: Indeed, Cantor appears to be the driving force in rejecting an array of proposals to close tax loopholes or end tax breaks for oil companies, hedge funds, and owners of corporate jets.

* Boehner to take blame if deal crashes? Meanwhile Boehner is the one getting headlines like this one from Major Garrett: “Boehner’s backpedal on debt ceiling moves Washington closer to the brink.”

* Obama offers to help GOP get deal through House, to no avail: The President reportedly told GOP leaders that he’s willing to package revenue increases with larger reforms of the tax code, enabling them to can tell the rank and file that they won’t be voting for a tax increase. No dice.

Key takeaway: For some House Tea Partyers, there is simply no way of tolerating any kind of revenue increases, no matter how they are packaged, because they are tax hikes by definition.

* Deficit impasse shows Tea Party running the show? Jonathan Cohn puts what I said above in another way:

Boehner isn’t really in charge of the House Republican caucus. The lunatics are. And it looks like they’ve won.

* Obama playing the long game? Whatever you think of Obama’s prioritization of deficit reduction, it’s possible, as Fred Hiatt notes this morning, that securing a big deficit reduction deal now will give him more maneuvering room to do big things in his second term.

* Unions fire a warning shot: If Obama agrees to cut Social Security, labor leaders say, he can expect less union support in the 2012 reelection. Key takeaway: It’s true that such threats from labor have fizzled in the past, but Wisconsin and other state-level labor fights mean there is a clearer case than before to be made for labor shifting resources from the Federal to the state level.

* Unemployment-related question of the day: Jim Tankersley asks: What happens when those young, recently-graduated voters Obama is counting on can’t find jobs?

* No, the stimulus was not a failure: Paul Krugman on how the pundits are all wrong: Meaningful stimulus never really failed, because it was never really tried :

Listening to what supposedly serious people say about the economy, you’d think the problem was “no, we can’t.” But the reality is “no, we won’t.” And every pundit who reinforces that destructive passivity is part of the problem.

* And Michele Bachmann grabs lead in Iowa: A new poll for The Iowa Republican finds Bachmann leading Mitt Romney, 25-21, another sign that she really could win the Iowa caucuses and can’t be dismissed as a contender for the nomination.

What else is happening?

Greg Sargent writes The Plum Line blog, a reported opinion blog with a liberal slant -- what you might call “opinionated reporting” from the left.


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