Hmmm: Obama to send “scaled-back” fiscal cliff plan to Senate? Update: House back in session Sunday

posted at 3:01 pm on December 27, 2012 by Allahpundit

Scott Brown wrote on Facebook that O had something in the works, the White House and Harry Reid’s office quickly denied it, and now CNN’s citing sources on both sides who say, yep, there’s a new offer coming.

The tedium-to-suspense ratio of this clusterfark is now approaching that of a “Scooby Doo” episode. And not a good episode, either. One with Scrappy.

A Republican senator said Obama told Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, that the president’s plan would arrive on Thursday, and a Senate Democratic leadership member also said that was the approach being taken. Both sources spoke on condition of not being identified further.

The move would answer McConnell’s call for the president or Senate Democrats to make the first move in the political standoff over how to prevent or soften automatic tax hikes and spending cuts of the fiscal cliff set to take effect in the new year — just five days away…

Last Friday, Obama proposed a scaled-back agreement that included his call for extending tax cuts on households with incomes under $250,000, as well as an extension of unemployment insurance.

However, there were no immediate details available on the exact components of the measure that the sources said was headed to Congress on Thursday.

If there’s an offer in the works — and that’s a big if — why would the White House play it close to the vest? That’s the sort of thing you do when you’re serious about negotiations and want to give the other side time to huddle without having to deal with public pressure. There’s no reason for O to be serious about this until next month. Matt Yglesias is unfortunately right that his hand will get stronger, not weaker, once we go over the cliff:

Conrad wants to split the difference between the President’s last offer and Boehner’s last offer. Then once something like that difference-splitting bill passes the Senate, Boehner gets to take it up as the new baseline for negotiations and pull the ultimate resolution even further to the right.

But that’s exactly why Obama would be foolish to take any such thing seriously. Starting in the New Year, the Senate gets more liberal. The House also gets more liberal. And the policy baseline also gets more liberal. The White House isn’t going to pull the plug on negotiations, but unless Boehner comes back to the table with something new to say they have no incentive to further weakn their hand.

Why would O quietly put a credible offer on the table now when he can do a big, showy “tax hikes on everyone who makes more than $250K” take-it-or-leave it ultimatum, wait a week while the media goes to work on how this is all the GOP’s fault, and then come back to the table with even more Democrats in the Senate and the House? And remember, Boehner’s Speakership is on the line on January 3; if O’s plan insists on a relatively low bar for new tax hikes (i.e. $250,000) and Boehner brings it to the floor anyway, that may be the end of his tenure. He needs to be re-elected Speaker first, which means we’re headed over the cliff — unless Obama’s “scaled-back” plan raises the tax-hike bar enough ($500,000? $600,000) to make it kinda sorta acceptable to Boehner and centrist House Republicans. But then you get into a new issue: How far can the bar rise before liberals in the House start to walk away? Getting 30 Republicans to vote yes on a bill that raises taxes on earners over $600,000 isn’t inconceivable, but getting the entire Democratic caucus to vote yes with them might be. The tax-hike “sweet spot” here is narrow; see Nate Silver’s graph today to understand why. How hard is Obama planning to twist Democrats’ arms to get them to back a plan he has no real incentive to offer in the first place?

Then again, Conn Carroll makes a good case that there are enough RINOs in the Senate to pass virtually anything:

Just this Sunday, Politico reported that Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., has gone on record in favor of a bill that would extend tax rates for incomes below $250,000. “If we get down to the end of this year and the only choice we have is to save taxes going up on the middle class, then I would support that,” Isakson said. And Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, committed to a similar policy Friday. “One of the beauties of that bill is it wouldn’t require a vote to raise anybody’s taxes, and I think that is a major advantage,” Cornyn said of a bill that would prevent middle class tax hikes.

That’s two Republican Senate votes Obama’s fall-back plan right there. Now Obama only needs five.

Maine’s Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins are gimmees. Now Obama only needs three.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, is always easily bought and Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., will be desperate to vote with Obama while running for a special election in a blue state. That is two more votes right there. Now Obama only needs one.

That last vote will be cast by Dick Lugar, of course. That makes 60 in the Senate, although it’s an open question whether they need even that many. McConnell hasn’t said yet whether O’s plan will be filibustered; Rand Paul, for one, has called on the GOP to let Democrats pass whatever tax hikes they want with Republicans voting “present” to keep their fingerprints off of the results. Assuming it does pass with a low-ish income bar for new taxes, that’ll bring most (or all) of the House’s Democrats onboard. The only mystery then will be whether Boehner’s prepared to hold out, a la Yglesias’s prediction, and demand an entirely new bill with a higher bar or whether he’ll say “to hell with it” and let centrist Republicans vote to push it through. My money’s on the latter — but not before January 3.

Exit question: What sort of guarantees will Boehner need to make to the GOP caucus about the fiscal cliff to survive the Speaker vote? House conservatives won’t vote for him if they expect him to cave on Obama’s tax-hike plan the day after. He’ll have to give them some sort of assurance to make it through.

Update: Double hmmmm:

House Republican leaders are bringing the House back into session on Sunday, lawmakers were told in a Thursday conference call…

“We are waiting on the Senate,” [Boehner] told lawmakers on a call restricted to the 241 lawmakers in the House Republican Conference.

My gut reaction when I saw that was that maybe there really is a scaled-back Obama plan after all and Boehner’s getting ready in case he needs to vote on it. But maybe not. One of the big GOP worries in all this is that they’ll take the blame if we head off the cliff; if the House isn’t even in session when it happens, it’ll make the media’s inevitable “Republicans aren’t serious” narrative that much easier for them. Best to have all hands on deck and prepared to act even if nothing happens.


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So how far are they going to kick the can down the road this time. This was a trap for the incoming republican president after they lost as they thought they would in 2010. They will kick it again so that the 114th congress has to deal with it all over again and then kick it again so the in 2016 the real republican president will get this as a nice house warming gift.

Or they can pick it up and take it to the recycling center and then pay the piper and go over the cliff with eyes open. Time to get use to the “new TM” normal with high tax rates that are locked in and not artificially reduced to score political points.

tjexcite on December 27, 2012 at 5:58 PM

Unless the Democrats want to go two years with a balanced budget, they’re going to have to negotiate w/ the Republicans, as long as the Republicans are more afraid of their Primary voters than they are of the press

.

good point Desla, the house controls the checkbook, use that power Boehner or step aside

DanMan on December 27, 2012 at 6:01 PM

TheRightMan on December 27, 2012 at 4:30 PM

You should call yourself TheWrongMan, because you are another example of why a segment of the conservative base is almost always wrong when it comes to politics.

Notice I said politics, not issues. Politics, of which you know next to nothing.

Which is why you keep getting beat, even when you are on the right side of the issues, which is most of the time.

Why do you assume I am a GOP moderate? I’m not. Not a liberal, either. Like Hannibal Lector, they don’t have a word for what I am (note: that was a joke).

Why do you assume I hate conservatives? I don’t. Even when I disagree with conservatives, I am known for giving them a fair hearing and a fair shake.

I offered no proposal for Boehner to keep his speakership; I merely outlined how it could happen. Anyone who understands politics understands that such a deal could happen, and has been considered.

The failure of Plan B has nothing to do with that at all. Plan B was an attempt by Boehner to show that he could hold his caucus together, and to retain some leverage in negotiations with Obama, so that the GOP could salvage something out of the deal, a deal that they are playing with a very weak hand.

House Republicans who do not understand politics tanked the deal, and put Boehner and the GOP in a weaker negotiating position.

All the fantasies of replacing Boehner with Ryan, or Palin, or going over the cliff and making the left “own it” won’t obviate that fact.

This is just like Gingrich effing up the tax deal during the Clinton years to score a few political points, and then getting a worse deal in the process. Remember how well the gov’t shut down worked for him and the GOP firebreathers? So do I.

Devastating mid terms and Gingrich lost his speakership.

I haven’t heard a lick of sense from the GOP or conservatives since our loss in the Presidential election. Time to start learning politics.

Mr. Arkadin on December 27, 2012 at 6:25 PM

At this point I would be cool with almost anything as long as it involved the removal of Boehner a Speaker. The GOP in the house needs new leadership, someone who comes from a more conservative state than Ohio.

If the GOP had any sense they could have neutralized this Obama Middle Tax Cut narrative if they had proposed a middle class tax that was lower than the Bush middle class tax cut and thus Obama’s middle tax cut. The trouble is the moderates and elite part of the GOP is too stupid and paralyzed with fear to propose anything and the hardcore fiscal conservatives hate it because of course it would make the debt worse, although probably the fiscal conservative republicans would support it if coupled with major spending cuts (which is what I would support). Obviously the tax raise on people making more that 250-500 thousand is probably going to happen no matter what at this point.

It would have at least forced Obama into a fight in which he would be put on weaker political ground, arguing for a higher tax rate for the middle class than the GOP. The GOP leadership should then enter the MSM lion’s den, like the NRA leaders did, get bashed because it would also have major spending cuts, but because the plan would be viewed favorably by the middle class (because of the larger middle class tax cut) only the MSM would make fools of themselves.

Once again use the NRA blueprint…change the game, change the argument.

William Eaton on December 27, 2012 at 6:25 PM

Why do you assume I am a GOP moderate? I’m not. Not a liberal, either.

Mr. Arkadin on December 27, 2012 at 6:25 PM

LMAO.

oh…we know what you are.

Tim_CA on December 27, 2012 at 6:37 PM

bored with lego?

sesquipedalian on December 27, 2012 at 3:11 PM

Nope. Bored with your mom.

El Salsero on December 27, 2012 at 6:44 PM

The tedium-to-suspense ratio of this clusterfark is now approaching that of a “Scooby Doo” episode. And not a good episode, either. One with Scrappy.

Gold!

SouthernGent on December 27, 2012 at 6:51 PM

Why do you assume I am a GOP moderate? I’m not. Not a liberal, either. Like Hannibal Lector, they don’t have a word for what I am (note: that was a joke).

Why do you assume I hate conservatives? I don’t. Even when I disagree with conservatives, I am known for giving them a fair hearing and a fair shake.

Mr. Arkadin on December 27, 2012 at 6:25 PM

Okay, let’s see… You are not a conservative, a liberal, nor a “moderate”. So what are you? A political chameleon? LOL…

Truth be told, I am thinking you might be one of those overpriced “GOP strategists” that manufactured and advised Boehner to bring up the crappy “Plan B”.

So tell me… you seriously think it was strategies like Boehner’s “Plan B” that won the House for the GOP in 2010 and 2012? If it were left to your ilk (DC insiders and Beltway wisdom crowd), Pelosi would still be holding the gavel.

Your way gave us Bob Dole and his loss to Clinton.

Your way gave us John McCain and his loss to Obama.

And…

Your way gave us Mitt Romney and his loss to Obama.

Now why don’t you political strategists step aside for a moment and allow us “hobbits” and “chuckleheads” to perform the same magic that won Reagan election and re-election, as well as the House in 1994 and 2010.

Thanks in advance.

TheRightMan on December 27, 2012 at 7:13 PM

I haven’t heard a lick of sense from the GOP or conservatives since our loss in the Presidential election. Time to start learning politics.

Mr. Arkadin on December 27, 2012 at 6:25 PM

Maybe next time… you guys could allow us to choose a truly conservative presidential candidate not a “moderate” loser.

TheRightMan on December 27, 2012 at 7:15 PM

bored with lego?

sesquipedalian on December 27, 2012 at 3:11 PM

Nope. Bored with your mom.

El Salsero on December 27, 2012 at 6:44 PM

Boom.

(lol)

Tim_CA on December 27, 2012 at 7:18 PM

verbaluce on December 27, 2012 at 5:23 PM

I’ll ask again you worthless parasite. Why do you hate the Constitution and America?

Happy Nomad on December 27, 2012 at 7:29 PM

verbaluce on December 27, 2012 at 5:23 PM

I’ll ask again you worthless parasite. Why do you hate the Constitution and America?

Happy Nomad on December 27, 2012 at 7:29 PM

What we have here is a failure unwillingness to communicate.
G’night, Happy N.

verbaluce on December 27, 2012 at 8:19 PM

TheRightMan on December 27, 2012 at 7:13 PM

TheRightMan on December 27, 2012 at 7:15 PM

Conservatives got elected in 2010 and 2012. They have since shown exactly zero ability to govern. Gingrich, when speaker, made some horrendous misjudgements. But he knew how to govern.

Name me one legislative victory, other than blocking the occasional bit of legislation, that the GOP can take credit for since the BIG WIN in 2010.

Your “truly conservative” presidential candidates did not have the chance to run in the general because they got their collective asses handed to them in the primary.

Don’t hand me that crap about how the media, or the beltway RHINO’s, or the party bosses, or the left chooses the candidates. Get a “true conservative” into the general, and then start talking.

The true conservative wins every time, except when it doesn’t.

Because message isn’t enough. You think Obama got elected this time around because of his message?

The Democrat message this time around was “We are not the GOP.”

Romney, no matter what anyone thinks of him, had a far stronger message than Obama.

Not good enough. Not good enough at all.

Mr. Arkadin on December 27, 2012 at 8:35 PM

Conservatives got elected in 2010 and 2012. They have since shown exactly zero ability to govern. Gingrich, when speaker, made some horrendous misjudgements. But he knew how to govern.

Name me one legislative victory, other than blocking the occasional bit of legislation, that the GOP can take credit for since the BIG WIN in 2010.

Your “truly conservative” presidential candidates did not have the chance to run in the general because they got their collective asses handed to them in the primary.

Don’t hand me that crap about how the media, or the beltway RHINO’s, or the party bosses, or the left chooses the candidates. Get a “true conservative” into the general, and then start talking.

The true conservative wins every time, except when it doesn’t.

Because message isn’t enough. You think Obama got elected this time around because of his message?

The Democrat message this time around was “We are not the GOP.”

Romney, no matter what anyone thinks of him, had a far stronger message than Obama.

Not good enough. Not good enough at all.

Mr. Arkadin on December 27, 2012 at 8:35 PM

I would accept a firebrand over a true conservative, if said firebrand was in agreement with me more often than not. The Newt Gingrich of 1994 fit that bill.

The problem rests in that the GOP, from top down, has no one with that passion. Either it has been beaten out of them or it was never possessed in the first place. (I cannot count Michele Bachmann, who in spite of her passion has zero ability to lead.)

Yes, a lot of blame does rest on the old guard, Boehner included. But no one wants to speak up. It’s as if this alleged majority just wants to take a beating from their abusive husbands in Reid and Obama.

Myron Falwell on December 27, 2012 at 8:50 PM

This

“The House has acted on two bills that collectively would avert the entire fiscal cliff. We passed HR 8 at the beginning of August to stop all of the tax rate increases that are set to occur on Jan. 1 under current law. And we’ve passed legislation to replace the entire sequester with responsible spending cuts,” Boehner said according to a source on the call. “These bills await action by the Senate. And as I, Eric, Kevin and Cathy said yesterday in a joint statement: If the Senate will not approve these bills and send them to the president to be signed into law in their current form, they must be amended and returned to the House. Once this has occurred, the House will then consider whether to accept the bills as amended, or to send them back to the Senate with additional amendments. The House will take this action on whatever the Senate can pass — but the Senate must act.”

DanMan on December 28, 2012 at 11:03 AM

Two things:

1.

One of the big GOP worries in all this is that they’ll take the blame if we head off the cliff; if the House isn’t even in session when it happens,

Good God, the GOP is going to get the blame no matter what, until Obama is out of office. They might as well get resigned to that fact. “the dog ate my homework” is the standard response from this administration, and the GOP is the dog.

2.

“One of the beauties of that bill is it wouldn’t require a vote to raise anybody’s taxes, and I think that is a major advantage,” Cornyn said of a bill that would prevent middle class tax hikes.

Right. Do nothing, no one has to vote on anything, and taxes go up.
But everyone has cover because “NO ONE” voted for a tax increase.

That right there is the basis for what the He** is wrong with Washington.

Cornyn needs the boot, along with a lot more. Term limits.

Tenwheeler on December 28, 2012 at 12:17 PM

The majority party (caucus) chooses the speaker, not the entire House.

coldwarrior on December 27, 2012 at 5:02 PM

You are wrong.

Probably should brush up on that one.

Tenwheeler on December 28, 2012 at 12:39 PM

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