President Obama yesterday urged Republicans to “take the deal.” Not the “Plan B” that the House will vote on tonight to address the “fiscal cliff” and which the White House has already rejected. The deal Obama is talking about is his proposal to let the top tax rate rise to 39.6 percent on income over $400,000 a year and to chain the growth of Social Security benefits to the Consumer Price Index.
“[T]hey keep on finding ways to say no, as opposed to finding ways to say yes,” Obama said in the White House press briefing room. “And I don’t know how much of that just has to do with — it is very hard for them to say yes to me. But at some point, they’ve got to take me out of it and think about their voters, and think about what’s best for the country. And if they do that — if they’re not worried about who’s winning and who’s losing, did they score a point on the President, did they extract that last little concession, did they force him to do something he really doesn’t want to do just for the heck of it, and they focus on actually what’s good for the country, I actually think we can get this done.”
The president’s rhetorical posture should sound familiar. Back in September 2011, during his vain attempt to secure passage of the American Jobs Act, a senior House Republican aide told Politico, “Obama is on the ropes; why do we appear ready to hand him a win?” The comment didn’t escape Obama’s notice during a speech the next day in Ohio.
Already, yesterday there were some Republicans quoted in Washington saying that even if they agree with the proposals in the American Jobs Act, they shouldn’t pass it because it would give me a win. That’s the kind of games-playing we’ve gotten used to in Washington. Think about that. They supported this stuff in the past, but they’re thinking maybe they don’t do it this time because Obama is promoting it. Give me a win? This isn’t about giving me a win. This isn’t about giving Democrats or Republicans a win. It’s about giving the American people a win. It’s about giving Ohio a win. It’s about your jobs and your lives and your futures, and giving our kids a win.
Once again, Obama has cast Republicans as an opposition obsessed with him and not with what’s best for the country. Once again, he has positioned himself as the adult in the room who wants to get something done. But there is one similarity and one difference between then and now. Here’s the similarity. Then, he knew the jobs act, which was filled with ideas Republicans had once supported, wasn’t going anywhere. Yet, he pushed it anyway to make the larger point that the GOP can’t take yes for an answer. Today, a fiscal cliff deal must get done and, once again, Republicans can’t take yes for an answer — even though they are “only a few hundred billion dollars apart,” as the president noted yesterday.
Now, here’s the difference. Then, Obama was a beleaguered chief executive weighed down by a bad economy and restive electorate. He was indeed “on the ropes.” Not this time. After decisively winning reelection on the explicit promise to raise taxes on the wealthy as part of a balanced approach to addressing this nation’s economic woes, the president is on firm ground in this latest fiscal fight. If Republicans stepped back a moment to realize this, they’d get a deal done instead of playing games with the economy and the American people.