House Republicans placed themselves on the side of entitlement reform when they voted for the Ryan budget. But the Ryan budget was a far-reaching, intricately interconnected plan that addressed not only entitlement spending but taxes and revenues and more. It was not a proposal that Republicans could just throw at the president and say, Here, this is our position. As for the actions on entitlements that might have been part of GOP demands for a debt-ceiling deal, says one participant in the Williamsburg meeting: “Long term, those have to be figured out. But my sense of that is that it is not going to happen in ten days. This is complex, important.” In other words, there was no plan for major entitlement cuts as part of the debt-limit strategy.

Rather than come up with their own plan for extensive entitlement cuts, Republicans considered focusing on some smaller proposals that Obama has spoken of favorably in the past and has now abandoned. If the debate had reached a discussion of entitlements, it’s likely the GOP would have latched onto those and pushed for the president to live by his own words.