One month before the deadline, negotiations between President Barack Obama and Republicans to save the economy from a plunge over the fiscal cliff are still in the throat-clearing stage. Serious bargaining is on hold while the two sides vie for political leverage.
Deal or no deal, nothing is likely to become clear until far closer to the year-end deadline, when the lure of getting away for the holidays will sharpen the focus of negotiators.
‘‘There’s a stalemate. Let’s not kid ourselves,’’ House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Friday, punctuating the end of a week of political theater by divided government. ‘‘Right now we’re almost nowhere.’’
He spoke as Obama all but called Republicans heartless louts from a Charles Dickens story. Their failure to pass an extension of middle class tax cuts would amount to a Christmas ‘‘lump of coal’’ for millions, Obama said in Hatfield, Pa. ‘‘That’s a Scrooge Christmas,’’ added the recently-re-elected president, who claims a voters’ mandate to extend existing tax cuts for all but upper incomes.
Facing backlash from Republicans as the fiscal cliff nears, anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist defended his position Tuesday, claiming that the constant pressure of hitting the debt ceiling gives the GOP “leverage” to press President Obama on tax rates and spending cuts.
“Taxpayers are best protected if the ‘negotiations are on CSPAN so they cannot be misrepresented by ‘spokesmen,'” Norquist wrote in a column for The Hill. “The debt ceiling that Obama’s plans bump into every month or so for the next four years provides plenty of ‘leverage’ for the GOP to trade for spending cuts — as done in 2011 — or continuing the lower rates.”
Norquist continued: “The debt ceiling and continuing resolutions to fund the government are more secure tools than a hope that Obama has become Bill Clinton.”
I don’t think President Obama wants to go down as the worst president in history, do you?
Well, that’s what going over the fiscal cliff will make him. And that’s why the Republicans have a lot a leverage.
The massive spending cuts and tax increases set to kick in January 2 will cause a second recession, from which we may not emerge for many months. The economy may not really get going for years. Obama will have presided over two terms of economic disaster. It will ruin his legacy, and sow the seeds for a major Republican revival.
Republican revival? But the Republicans are going to get blamed, you say.
They will, in the short run. But in the end, it will be the president who failed to somehow make a deal. Presidents are ultimately responsible for their presidencies. The good ones tame their enemies, pick off some of them and make them allies, and get a good result. The bad ones go over fiscal cliffs.
Rep. Lee Terry, R-Nebraska, says it would be politically advantageous for President Obama if no deal on the fiscal cliff is met by the end of the year, calling the administration’s proposals to tame the nation’s debt “disingenuous.” …
If the U.S. economy goes over the cliff, Terry says, Obama could come back to Congress a couple months later with a bill to lower taxes on the middle class. The Republicans would feel pressure to vote in favor of it because the GOP supports lower taxes, he says.
“Many of us feared the president’s real plan was to let us go over the fiscal cliff and blame the Republicans,” Terry said. “That’s what it looks like we’re being set up to do.” …
Terry said the debt ceiling is “about the only level of leverage we have.”
If you don’t want that, you need to cut spending – like Harry Reid’s been doing. “Now remember, we’ve already done more than a billion dollars’ worth of cuts,” he bragged the other day. “So we need to get some credit for that.”
Wow! A billion dollars’ worth of cuts! Washington borrows $188 million every hour. So, if Reid took over five hours to negotiate those “cuts,” it was a complete waste of time. So are most of the “plans.” In fact, any “debt reduction plan” that doesn’t address at least $1.3 trillion a year is, in fact, a debt-increase plan.
So, given that the ruling party will not permit spending cuts, what should Republicans do? If I were John Boehner, I’d say: “Clearly there’s no mandate for small government in the election results. So, if you milquetoast pantywaist sad-sack excuses for the sorriest bunch of so-called Americans who ever lived want to vote for Swede-sized statism, it’s time to pony up.”
OK, he might want to focus-group it first. But that fundamental dishonesty is the heart of the crisis. You cannot simultaneously enjoy American-sized taxes and European-sized government. One or the other has to go.
The election is over, a new era begins—and it looks just like the old one. A crisis is declared. Confusion, frustration, and a more embittered process follow. This is . . . the Obama Way. Nothing has changed, even after a yearlong campaign that must, at times, have looked to him like a near-death experience. …
You watch and wonder: Why does it always have to be cliffs with this president? Why is it always a high-stakes battle? … Why is there never a sense with Mr. Obama that he understands the other guys’ real position?
It’s not as if Mr. Boehner and the Republicans wouldn’t deal. They’ve been weakened and they know it. A year ago they hoped winning the Senate and the presidency would break the stasis. They won neither. Mr. Obama not only was re-elected, it wasn’t that close, it was a clean win. If the president was clear about anything throughout the campaign, it was that he wanted to raise taxes on those he calls the rich. …
So they’re weakened, they want this particular crisis to end, and they badly need to win entitlement reforms that would, in the end, buttress the president’s historical standing—and the president isn’t working with them every day and making a deal?