White House aides: The president keeps the channels of communication open to GOP lawmakers, a process that began over a high-cholesterol dinner last week. House and Senate pass disparate budgets and send them to a conference committee. A bipartisan group of senators, including those bending Obama’s ear, strike a deal. The Senate approves it, putting enormous pressure on the GOP-controlled House. That pressure is, effectively, political cover: Enough Republicans feel safe enough to cross party lines and join Democrats on a deal.
GOP House aides: This week’s opening bids from Ryan and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray are strategically distasteful. Obama offers a budget in April that hints at serious entitlement reform. The president’s approval ratings continue to drop, putting pressure on Democrats to cut spending deeper than they would like, in order to protect the rest of the White House agenda. That allows a small but significant number of GOP lawmakers to back new taxes couched as reform.
The good news is that top GOP aides, when promised anonymity, are willing to talk about raising taxes a second time (they would spin it as broader tax reform) — but only if Democrats move much further on spending cuts and entitlements.