Goalpost shifting and reposturing

posted at 1:00 pm on July 23, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

What happened yesterday that created the public disruption in talks between President Obama and John Boehner on the debt ceiling and deficit reduction?  Pretty clearly, this was the only substantive impact of the Gang of Six’s intrusion on the issue.  Their proposal has turned out to be vaporware — it doesn’t actually address the debt ceiling, for one thing, and they don’t have an actual plan, either, not one that commits to language that can be scored.  However, it provided enough of a distraction to allow Obama to shift the goalposts on revenue halfway down the field, as Jim Pethokoukis reports from sources on the Hill:

We never had agreement on a revenue number. But the WH did demand more revenue post gang of 6 – a lot more revenue. Entitlements [changes included] Medicare raising age, significant savings, combining Medicare parts A and B, means testing. Also chain cpi on social security and additional savings. GOP proposed over 200 billion in medicaid savings, WH up to 120. But n agreement on$800 billion. But there would have been tax reform and 3 flat rates – broadened base, lower rates. WH wanted higher rates post gang. …

Despite what WH briefers may be saying, any new revenue in the framework would NOT have been generated by letting the current tax rates expire. That is simply false. Under the framework discussed, a CEILING was agreed upon that could generate $800 billion in new revenue over ten years. This would be done through comprehensive tax reform that would clear out deductions, credits, and loopholes in the system – and spur economic growth. After the gang of six plan came out, the White House moved the goal posts and insisted on $400 billion more in higher taxes – a 50% increase in revenue – and wanted that to be the FLOOR instead of the ceiling. The President acknowledged this in his remarks tonight. “Letting tax cuts expire” was never part of the tax reform agreed to.

As much as I like Senator Tom Coburn, some of the blame for this nonsense belongs to him.  Early this week, he laid out what I believe is the best, most comprehensive plan for dealing with the deficit, which would have cut $9 trillion over the next decade and put the US firmly on the path to right-sizing the government.  Instead of sticking with that, though, Coburn threw in with the Go-6 the very next day, even though the Go-6 plan didn’t really exist in any meaningful form.  That was enough for the Go-6 to grab headlines and to seemingly weaken Boehner’s position.  In the end, however, the Go-6 group had to admit that they had no real plan and that they wouldn’t for months, making them irrelevant.

Of course, that didn’t mean that Obama had to give up that apparent advantage, even though there would be no way to use the Go-6 to meet his own announced deadline on the debt ceiling.  He stuck to his guns, but so did Boehner.  When it became clear that the goalposts would not be moved back, Boehner publicly dismissed the President to focus on Harry Reid instead — and that caused Obama to have his temper tantrum at the podium last night.

All of this was entirely predictable after the Go-6 entry, and so is what will happen next.  Despite all of the charges and countercharges yesterday, the talks will go on, this time with public postures clarified.  I had dinner with friends last night, one of whom remarked that it was unbelievable that the two sides couldn’t sit down and talk things through rather than just rely on party positions.  I replied that there were actual principles at stake on both sides, not just party gaming, but that appearances aren’t what they seem anyway.  In reality, Boehner has no one else but Obama and Reid with whom to negotiate, and Obama and Reid have no one but Boehner.  They’re stuck with each other, and they all know that some agreement has to be reached shortly.  The strategic and tactical advantage goes to Boehner, however, who has an opportunity to divide Reid and Obama, while the two Democrats have no one but Boehner with whom to deal.

At The Corner, Robert Costa hears much the same thing from former Rep. Tom Reynolds:

Former New York congressman Tom Reynolds, a past chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, tells me that the big takeaway from tonight’s dueling press conferences is that the talks are still on. Yes, Reynolds says, the negotiations have collapsed, but with party leaders meeting tomorrow at the White House, it is clear that both sides are still looking to deal and used tonight to draw fresh lines in the sand.

“There are still options and opportunity,” Reynolds says. Moving ahead, however, “Boehner is going to have some challenging times. He is one leg of a three-legged stool, surrounded by big-spending liberals, and now the fight has gone public.”

Reynolds says the “grand bargain” may be dead (again), but some bargain will be reached.  Last night’s pas de deux gave Boehner a chance to reset the dynamic after the Go-6 intervention.  We’ll see if goalposts start shifting back this weekend.

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Thanks, Wethal, that seems like a believable and reasonable report.

rockmom on July 23, 2011 at 4:57 PM

Wethal on July 23, 2011 at 4:54 PM

lol…you’re good….beat me by a minute!

Tim_CA on July 23, 2011 at 4:57 PM

so now i’m reading that boehner will have another plan by sunday….why dont we hear about ANY plans from the dems or dear leader…we have had TWO plans already go through….

so boehner thinks he has to come up with another solution….I DON”T THINK SO…WHERE IS THE DEMS PLAN?

oh i forgot, is he THAT worried about what the LSM is going to do? they are already blaming us for EVERYTHING

cmsinaz on July 23, 2011 at 4:59 PM

Dr Evil on July 23, 2011 at 3:42 PM

spot on…

covering for them big time…INFURIATING…so they will portray the gop for any downfall…

cmsinaz on July 23, 2011 at 5:03 PM

Thanks, Wethal, that seems like a believable and reasonable report.

rockmom on July 23, 2011 at 4:57 PM

The problem with the comittees or the “super-committee” is that it lets the Dems campaign on Mediscare in 2012. Any Dem committee member will have instructions not to allow any changes to Medicare or Medicaid or Social Security.

Which is why the Dems might go along with Boehner, and also because the Tea Party votes in the House might not give Boehner 218, so he’d need Dem votes. This would give the Dems a chance to gloat over the GOP inability to deal with Tea Party “extremists.”

Wethal on July 23, 2011 at 5:06 PM

rockmom on July 23, 2011 at 4:55 PM

Boehner took refusal to increase the debt limit off the table before any negotiations even began. There’s nothing he can do now to redeem himself in my view.

Bugler on July 23, 2011 at 5:09 PM

All you are doing is playing right into Obama’s hands by focusing your scorn on Boehner, rather than on Obama and especially on Harry Reid.

rockmom on July 23, 2011 at 4:55 PM

Going to have to disagree with you on this one mom.

I didn’t sign up to blindly follow establishment types down the road to fiscal insanity regardless of their party affiliation.

We’ve controlled the purse-strings since the mid-terms. Have you already forgotten Pelosi’s iron-fisted rein of terror? Have you forgotton how much she accomplished AGAINST the will of a majority of the American people?

Where’s Boner been……? Attending a “Golf Summit” with ‘lil bammie (yeah that looked great)….and getting his @ss handed to him on the “budget deal” back in April (where he was schooled by the Dem’s and their non-existent cuts)?

I know where Obama and Reid stand…it’s the knives in the back I worry about.

Still love ya…..just have a little more TEA in me apparently.

Tim_CA on July 23, 2011 at 5:14 PM

The democratics will run on Mediscare no matter what happens this month. It’s what they do.

Even if little Bammie agreed to means-test Medicare for this agreement, he would immediately begin running against Republicans for 2012 on it. He would say those meanie Republicans blackmailed him into means-test and he wants to be reelected so he can save Medicare. “The grownup responsible president then went along to save the economy, unlike those childish senior-hating Republicans.”

When you own the old media you can get away with just about anything.

slickwillie2001 on July 23, 2011 at 5:35 PM

I fully expect Boehner to blink. The debt ceiling will be raised and spending cuts will be kicked down the road to be handled in the dingy Harry Senate. Boehner should lose the gavel, he doesn’t have the cajones that Pelosi did.

ultracon on July 23, 2011 at 6:00 PM

I fully expect Boehner to blink. The debt ceiling will be raised and spending cuts will be kicked down the road to be handled in the dingy Harry Senate. Boehner should lose the gavel, he doesn’t have the cajones that Pelosi did.

ultracon on July 23, 2011 at 6:00 PM

What will you say if he doesn’t blink? Looks to me like he has stood up to absolutely withering pressure from the entire Washington establishment this week.

rockmom on July 23, 2011 at 6:06 PM

What will you say if he doesn’t blink? Looks to me like he has stood up to absolutely withering pressure from the entire Washington establishment this week.

rockmom on July 23, 2011 at 6:06 PM

He needs to start worrying less about the “washington Establishment” and start worrying more about the future of this Nation and the American People.

And although you weren’t asking me, I’d say “Good Job Mr. Speaker – way to stand up for what’s right, thanks for understanding what the mid-terms meant, now let’s start articulating our vision vs. ‘lil bammie’s in as public a way as possible”.

Tim_CA on July 23, 2011 at 6:26 PM

rockmom on July 23, 2011 at 6:06 PM

Yep, Boehner’s been doing fine so far.

Del Dolemonte on July 23, 2011 at 6:29 PM

spot on…

covering for them big time…INFURIATING…so they will portray the gop for any downfall…

cmsinaz on July 23, 2011 at 5:03 PM

I don’t know why the conservative media, isn’t focusing on the U.S. Senate, they are derelict, negligent, irresponsible, delinquent….Why aren’t the talkers throwing the proverbial thesaurus at them? We ask, where is their budget plan we get mumbling about a group of them, that apparently meet but don’t write anything down. The U.S. Senate: You expect us to like work for our paychecks or something? Then Harry tables anything the working branch of Congress produces. Then they got the cahonees to blame the House, for not coming up with a plan to raise the debt ceiling limit. I would make up some graphics with U.S. Senators on the side of Milk Cartons. Have you seen the U.S. Senate? Missing please return to nearest lobbyist. Make no mistake that’s who the U.S. Senate answers to not the American people. What is the conservative media waiting for? A sign on the Senate chamber door with one of those paper clocks, will be back after 3:00 P.M. gone to lunch and having drinks on the American tax payer. I guess they the U.S. Senate, just have everyone trained to their lousy public performance. The Masters of Mooch. That’s what I call a duly elected public servant, that doesn’t bother to do their job. A mooch – mooching off of the American tax payer.

Dr Evil on July 23, 2011 at 6:45 PM

This is an opportune time for those running for President to get behind Boehner and leave there war lance in the ground.

I don’t know why the Republican leadership, can’t figure out Americans love a fighter.

Dr Evil on July 23, 2011 at 6:53 PM

I don’t know why the Republican leadership, can’t figure out Americans love a fighter.

Dr Evil on July 23, 2011 at 6:53 PM

Amen.

Tim_CA on July 23, 2011 at 6:55 PM

Dr Evil on July 23, 2011 at 6:45 PM

well said my friend…

cmsinaz on July 23, 2011 at 7:06 PM

As much as I like Senator Tom Coburn, some of the blame for this nonsense belongs to him.  Early this week, he laid out what I believe is the best, most comprehensive plan for dealing with the deficit, which would have cut $9 trillion over the next decade and put the US firmly on the path to right-sizing the government.  Instead of sticking with that, though, Coburn threw in with the Go-6 the very next day, even though the Go-6 plan didn’t really exist in any meaningful form.  That was enough for the Go-6 to grab headlines and to seemingly weaken Boehner’s position. 

This is exactly what Hugh Hewitt said to Corburn last week.

jawkneemusic on July 23, 2011 at 7:55 PM

What’s with all of this use of the word “revenue” when we are talking about taxes. Seems like another spin word the democrats want to use and everyone is following their lead. Like “undocumented worker”…makes me ill.

lynncgb on July 23, 2011 at 8:13 PM

So far, John Boehner has shown himself to be a lot tougher than many of us thought (including me). With the existing time line, that the Administration has set in stone, I don’t see how Boehner can lose on this one. I know our illustrious free press is going to try and make it look like Obama won this, no matter what happens, but anyone watching what happened, yesterday, must have been shocked at how much of an amateur the President looked like.

I hope Boehner insists on the Democrats and the President giving him something in writing, so the goal posts will stay in place this time. I loved his comment about negotiating with Jell-O, sort of describes this presidency. Gee, if Reagan was the Teflon president, is Obama the Jell-O president?

Vote Republican and only be called a racist one more time.

bflat879 on July 23, 2011 at 9:45 PM

Captain Ed Is THE MAN.

Quote me on this. The Captain has a certain set of morals, and if you don’t like’em, then don’t.

However, do NOT put down a good man because you are uncertain about yourself. The Captain is with us for good, bad, or indifferent. I choose to enjoy his wisdom. You do whatever pleases you, but remember, this is a GOOD MAN.

hillbillyjim on July 23, 2011 at 10:28 PM

Now that I’ve been all sloppy and cheesy, go ahead. Have at me. I can take it.

I wasn’t even a Cap’n Ed fan when Hot Air went there, but now I am.

Ed Morrissey has earned my respect.

hillbillyjim on July 23, 2011 at 10:36 PM

Oh, I forgot to mention:

If you disagree, you are worse than Hitler.

hillbillyjim on July 23, 2011 at 10:37 PM

;>)

hillbillyjim on July 23, 2011 at 10:38 PM

If Obama says he didn’t shift the goal posts, we then know he did. He always lies.

proconstitution on July 24, 2011 at 1:33 PM

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