A peek into GOP budget logic, from excellent reporting by Felicia Sonmez:
[Jon] Kyl and [Eric] Cantor, the two Republican negotiators in the talks, said that there would be no way to pass a deficit-reduction plan in the House if it included tax increases. The case they made, according to the source, was that Republicans want to repeal health care but know they will not be able to, and Democrats want to include revenue increases but know that Republicans would oppose that, so both of those options should be taken off the table.
Notice anything there? The two things — tax increases and Affordable Care Act (ACA) repeal — are in no way parallel. First of all, Republicans want ACA repeal on (what they see as) the merits. They simply oppose the program. Democrats, however, do not want tax increases absent budget pressures; it’s just that Democrats would prefer certain tax increases to certain spending cuts, in the context of deficit reduction.
But more basically, Democrats would accept tax increases because they would reduce the deficit. ACA repeal, on the other hand, would increase the deficit.
For Republicans to drop ACA repeal, what Democrats should give up in return would be something else that Democrats want that would increase the deficit — say, new extensions on unemployment insurance, or new spending on alternative-energy research, or new spending on, well, anything.
The fair trade for the Republican preference for keeping taxes off the table would be, for the Democrats, keeping spending off the table. Which is fine, for those of us who don’t want deficit reduction right now — but it won’t make for very impressive deficit-reduction talks!
Of course, there’s nothing that says that trade-offs in negotiations have to be fair (and certainly nothing that says bargaining positions have to be logical), so we’ll see what comes of all of this. My guess, however, is that Kyl and Cantor are absolutely sincere in their belief that they deserve something in exchange for dropping ACA repeal. After all, ACA is bad, the deficit is bad, so why shouldn’t ACA repeal be part of deficit reduction? It’s just another indication that when Republicans say they hate deficits, they’re not talking about the difference between government revenues and government expenditures; it’s just shorthand for “stuff we don’t like in the budget.” And that makes actually reducing the deficit even harder than it would be otherwise.