Case in point: John Boehner’s remarkable Op ed in the Washington Post today.
Yesterday Obama met with House Republicans. While there was a lot of grousing, a few were willing to admit Obama had offered them real entitlement cuts. According to Sahil Kapur’s report, one House Republican said: “He did express a willingness to give on entitlements.” Another said: “He focused a lot on entitlements.”
To this, Boehner responds with a cannon blast demanding that Obama show more “presidential leadership” on fiscal matters, by which he means that Obama needs to do still more to offer Republicans a budget deal they can accept. Incredibly, in the course of asking for more leadership from Obama and Dems, Boehner cites the Paul Ryan budget as something Dems need to consider embracing. The Ryan budget not only balances the budget, or purports to balance the budget, with 100 percent of what Republicans want — deep and savage cuts to the safety net and other government programs, with no new revenues — it also repeals Obama’s signature domestic initiative. Yet Boehner actually writes this:
For all of Washington’s focus on the president’s outreach to Republicans, it’s his engagement with members of his own party that will determine whether we succeed in dealing with the challenges facing our economy.
Translation: Until Obama shows the leadership necessary to persuade members of his own party to agree to do things 100 percent our way, with Dems getting absolutely nothing in return, no deal is possible. This is a more serious abdication of leadership than any one Obama has committed.
The basic outlines of the situation could not be more clear. Obama has told Republicans he’s willing to give them at least some of the entitlement cuts they say they want, in exchange for new revenues. Republicans have responded by offering a governing blueprint that absolutely shreds Democratic priorities on every level, and even continues to feed the GOP base’s Obamacare repeal fantasies by scrapping Obama’s number one governing accomplishment — without making any concessions of any kind on revenues. Ironically, the extreme and regressive Ryan budget appears to be the only fiscal blueprint acceptable to House conservatives — Boehner has no control over these lawmakers, and could never get them to agree to anything approaching a reasonable compromise — yet Boehner is maintaining that the problem is Obama’s inability to prevail over rank and file Democrats.
In his op ed, Boehner floats entitlement reforms such as raising the Medicare eligibility age as reasonable areas of common ground, then laments that Obama has taken that off the table. But needless to say, there is no sign in the op ed of any willingness to give any revenues in return for such concessions.
Republicans need to be asked whether there is any ratio of spending cuts of their own choosing to new revenues they’d find acceptable. Until we establish whether they are willing to compromise in any way, shape or form — now, they are not willing to do this — everything else is just moot. But as Ron Fournier writes, signaling such a willingness would require Boehner to show leadership he just isn’t prepared to show.
* Obama gets it right on the deficit: Sources tell the New York Times that Obama said this to House Republicans in their private meeting yesterday:
“Our biggest problems in the next 10 years are not deficits,” the president said, according to accounts from the meeting, bluntly rejecting an idea that has become Republican fiscal dogma.
Well, that’s good to hear. It would be great to hear this view — that we don’t need to immediately slash the deficit amid a weak recovery and mass nmemployment, and that focusing on boosting the economy frst would itself help with the deficit — spelled out publicly by the President as often as possible.
* Obama called Boehner first on election night: Folks on the right were widely up in arms to hear that Obama called DCCC chair Steve Israel on election night, which was held up as proof of Obama’s preference for partisanship over governing. But check out this tidbit from the New York Times report on yesterday’s meeting:
[GOP Rep. James] Lankford asked the president why on election night he had called the head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Representative Steve Israel of New York, to congratulate him on their victories before he had called Speaker John A. Boehner. The president corrected Mr. Lankford, noting that he had called Mr. Boehner first but that the speaker was asleep.Mr. Boehner laughed and confirmed that indeed he was sleeping when the call came.
Do tell! So the Republican House Speaker has now confirmed that Obama called him before he called either Pelosi or Israel. Can we drop this one now? Thanks.
* Dem leaders on board with entitlement cuts? An important tidbit from the Post’s writeup of Obama’s meeting with Senate Dems:
Administration officials say Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) are on board with the president’s push for a grand bargain and are willing to rally their rank and file to support politically touchy changes to health and retirement programs so long as Republicans sign off on significant new tax increases.
This will likely anger liberals like Bernie Sanders who want Obama and Dems to draw a hard line against any entitlement benefits cuts, and to leverage public opinion to force Republicans to accept a replacement for the sequester that combines new revenues with judicious spending cuts that don’t touch benefits.
* The Dem budget bring in less in revenues than Simpson-Bowles: Glenn Kessler looks at the Dem claim that the new budget introduced by Senate Democrats would yield less in revenues than the Simpson-Bowles plan, and says the claim is accurate. In one sense, then, the Dem budget is to the right of the fiscal proposal that’s widely held up as a paragon of responsible centrism, while the Paul Ryan budget has fallen off the right side of the earth. It’s another sign of just how far from any reasonable conception of the “center” our fiscal debate has drifted.
* Paul Ryan’s cruel, unserious budget: E.J. Dionne has a good column detailing just how extreme, cruel to the poor, and loaded up with hocus pocus Paul Ryan’s blueprint really is. This is key:
Those who think of themselves as compassionate conservatives have a moral obligation to oppose Ryan’s design….This is, finally, a test of those who consider themselves moderate and are seeking a sensible settlement. Will they call out Ryan and the House Republicans for how extreme their ideas are? Or will they instead adjust their own postures and timidly let Ryan dictate the terms of the debate?
* Conservatives say Ryan budget doesn’t go far enough: Tea Party members of Congress are criticizing the Ryan budget because it counts the tax hikes in Obamacare towards balancing the budget — and are redoubling their demand for Obamacare’s repeal. I think the continued feeding of the GOP base’s Obamacare repeal fantasy is crazy and destructive, but at least these folks are being more consistent than Ryan is.
* And crisis-to-crisis governing extracts a price: David Firestone makes an important point: Funding the government by lurching from one “continuing resolution” to another actually is terrible policy with real consequences:
A Government Accountability Office report, issued today, says these measures often cripple agencies with uncertainty, and make it impossible to hire for the future. The Food and Drug Administration, for example, has been unable to plan for enough inspectors to properly monitor food and medical devices.
It’s beginning to look, however, like we may end up doing another CR in September, given the refusal of Republicans to give any ground on new revenues, which makes a long term deal impossible. So the crisis-to-crisis governing may continue.