Watching what's happening with the work of the Super Committee tasked with coming up with a deficit deal to stave off triggered cuts to defense and other programs has provided some interesting drama this week. Although slight, there was actual movement from some Republicans on increasing revenues as part of the deal. A group of 40 House Republicans joined with 60 Democrats in signing a letter that encouraged the committee to consider revenue as part of the deal. And Speaker Boehner acknowledged that increased revenue will be part of the final deal.
It's important to note that neither the House letter nor Boehner used the "t" word (ie, tax increases), but merely talked about "revenue." So they're still just talking about getting rid of loopholes as a way to generate increased taxes from corporations and individuals. But its still movement in the right direction.
And then today we hear that 33 Republican Senators sent a letter to the Super Committee insisting on no net tax increases. In other words, "don't even play around with ending loopholes."
I suspect that behind closed doors there's a lot of talk going on amongst Republicans these days that comes down to balancing their allegiances to folks like Norquist (and his "no new taxes pledge") and the defense hawks. As the deadline for the Super Committee looms closer (Thanksgiving), failure to reach a deal means the Republicans in Congress will have to spend the 2012 election year passing bills to restore defense spending and extend the Bush tax cuts. I suspect that's something they would REALLY like to avoid.
The art of successful negotiating is being aware of where you have your leverage. Because President Obama and the Democrats did such a masterful job of protecting progressive priorities in the triggers (it would exempt Social Security, Medicaid, unemployment insurance, programs for low-income families, and civilian and military retirement. Any cuts to Medicare would be capped at 2% and limited to the provider side) we just might finally have the makings of a hostage crisis for the Republicans.