Brian Beutler reports on John Boehner’s comments to reporters yesterday at the Capitol:
“Tomorrow the House will pass legislation to make permanent tax relief for nearly every American — 99.81 percent of the American people,” he said, referring to his own so-called Plan B. “Then the President will have a decision to make. He can call on Senate Democrats to pass that bill, or he can be responsible for the largest tax increase in American history.”
That sounds like he’s giving Obama a choice between Plan B or the fiscal cliff. No more negotiations over a broader deficit reduction plan.
Boehner did not take any questions from the press, but a spokesman for the speaker affirmed that the lines of communication with the White House remain open and that Boehner was not signaling the end of negotiations.
Whether or not he’s foreclosing on further negotiations before the end of the year, Boehner did suggest that he’d entertain further negotiations over a “balanced” plan in the future.
Steve Benen thinks Boehner “is now giving ultimatums and preemptively trying to avoid blame for the increasingly likely failure.”
As a rule, officials only start preemptively trying to avoid responsibility for failure when they expect to get blamed. For that matter, it’s also a reliable rule that those saying my-way-or-no-way are not serious about working out an acceptable compromise.
One question to keep an eye on, which we do not yet know the answer to: after Obama and Boehner got awfully close to a deal over the weekend, did Republicans move away from the bipartisan agreement because Boehner deemed it insufficient or because his caucus told him to deem it insufficient? It’s been an ongoing problem in the GOP conference for two years — their leader is more often taking orders than giving them.
Regardless, if the talks collapse, as now appears likely, it’ll be the second time in two years in which Obama offered a congressional Republicans a very generous offer — to the consternation of the president’s own allies, it’s basically a center-right package — on an issue they occasionally pretend to care about, only to have GOP officials refuse to compromise.
President Obama urged the GOP to quit playing reindeer games with the welfare of the country: “I don’t know how much of that just has to do with [the idea that] it is very hard for them to say yes to me,” Obama said at a press conference to announce a new task force to prevent gun violence. “But, you know, at some point, you know, they’ve got to take me out of it and think about their voters and think about what’s best for the country.”
The administration argues that the “Plan B” would mean that scores of wealthy earners would keep getting substantial tax breaks while 2 million Americans would lose unemployment insurance. “That violates the core principles that were debated during the course of this election and that the American people determined was the wrong way to go,” Obama said. That premise, however, has been vigorously disputed by Republican leaders, who say that the “Plan B” legislation would immediately prevent tax hikes on the middle class, which the White House has always called its top priority in the negotiations. [...]
While Obama said he understands lead negotiator Boehner faces “challenges” within his caucus from rank-and-file members fearful of a primary challenge from the right, he accused GOP heavies of keeping on their “partisan war paint” long after Election Day.
“I think an environment needs to be created within not just the House Republican caucus but also among Senate Republicans that say the campaign is over, and let’s see if we can do what’s right for the country. At least for the next month. And then, you know, we can reengage in all the other battles that they’ll want to fight.”
“Everybody knows what happens in January. Both sides ought to be able to anticipate it and make the deal they could make then now. Business types have therefore assumed a December deal would happen. If this was a business deal between two rational people, that’s what would happen.”
“But we are not dealing with rational people here. We are dealing with House Republicans. As Republican Tom Cole gently put it, by way of describing his colleagues’ implacable hatred of taxes, ‘It’s who they are. It’s the air they breathe. It’s what the Republican electorate produces.‘”
“If Boehner strikes a deal before January, Republicans will suspect he gave away revenue he could have fought for. But if he refuses, the House Republicans will see for themselves what happens. The revenue will go away on its own, over Boehner’s objections. All Obama has to do is continue to make clear he will not under any circumstances extend any tax cuts on income over $250,000 a year. Then he has nearly all the revenue he needs, and he can offer Republicans a deal they would never walk away from. They might try to get that deal in December, but January remains the best bet.”