Lots of pleasantries but no progress on tax cuts, although Obama announced that he’s sending Geithner and OMB Director Jack Lew to meet with members of each party’s caucuses to try to hash out a deal. (Dave Camp will represent House Republicans.) Expect Dems to push a plan along the lines of what Schumer’s proposing, caving on tax cuts for the wealthy ($250,000) but insisting on tax hikes for the very wealthy ($1 million). Can Reid get two Republican votes for that in the Senate? Better yet, can he hold onto the votes of liberal Democrats? In case the answer to both questions is yes, prominent members of each party’s base are spending this Cooperation Day by reminding them that compromise is unacceptable.
One minor surprise about the meeting via Cantor afterwards: The One made a rare admission of error.
House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R., Va.) said he was pleased with the meeting and praised President Obama for striking a somewhat conciliatory tone. He said Obama admitted that he had not sufficiently reached out to Republicans in the previous two years and pledged to do more so in the future. “I was encouraged by the president’s remarks regarding his perhaps not having reached out enough to us in the last session, and that this meeting was the beginning of a series in which he hoped that we could work together in a different fashion for the benefit of the American people, given the problems that we face,” Cantor said.
At least one GOP leadership aide complained yesterday that Obama “forgot” to credit Republicans for proposing a federal pay freeze during the campaign, but McConnell et al. declined to mention it today. Which is the smart move, I think: The next two years will be largely an exercise in narrative-shaping for 2012, with Obama blaming Republican spitefulness for the logjam in Congress and the GOP blaming Obama’s refusal to heed the results of the midterms. The more civil they are to him publicly, the harder it’ll be for him and the media to frame their policy opposition as personal petulance rather than as a stand on principle. In fact, follow the links up top and you’ll find both Boehner and Obama in their statements after the presser emphasizing that there’s a reason we have a two-party system. That’s their way of reassuring their respective bases that they prefer gridlock to compromising on core philosophical differences, but it’s also Boehner’s way of preparing independents for another round of “party of no” whining from the left.