- The first thing to notice is that Speaker Boehner made some big concessions from the Republican position. First of all, he opened the door on the extension of tax cuts. His proposal would extend them for income less than $1 million (Obama wants them extended for income less than $250,000). But the really BIG concession was an extension of the debt ceiling for one or two years. That would give away the leverage Republicans were counting on in the coming months. BFD!
- Because Boehner made these concessions, it was incumbent on Obama to do so as well. If he hadn't, he'd be putting himself and the Democrats in the position of being blamed when we went off the "cliff" by being intransigent. That's why he made the counter-offer of extending the tax cuts for income less than $400,000 and adopting the "chained CPI" method of measuring inflation.
- No one of the left truly embraces the chained CPI. But people as knowledgable as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and Jared Bernstein suggest that the conditions the White House was demanding to include would mitigate its effects on vulnerable elderly who are dependent on Social Security. The Republicans were demanding 2 things be included on the spending cuts side of this negotiation - raising the Medicare eligibility age and chained CPI (which affects more than Social Security). Of the two, its clear that Obama agreed with many liberal economists that the latter was the least objectionable alternative.
- What is perhaps the most important point to notice here however, is that when Boehner and Obama got within striking distance of a deal, Boehner walked away. Ultimately - as President Obama noted yesterday in his press conference - he couldn't sell it to the Republican caucus in the House. As Michael Tomasky explains, Boehner's angry 50 second press conference yesterday was no match for the President's appeal to common sense compromise. But Boehner's speakership is on the line on Jan. 3rd. And that's his biggest concern right now.
- Today Speaker Boehner will attempt to have the House pass his "Plan B" bill which would ONLY extend the tax cuts for income under $1 million (nothing on the defense or domestic cuts coming Jan. 1st). Its unclear whether or not he can garner his troops to even do that - what with organizations like the Heritage Foundation and the Club for Growth urging a "no" vote. The Senate certainly won't pass that one and President Obama has promised to veto it if they did. Brian Beutler does a good job of explaining Boehner's options when it fails: "To his right, there’ll be the fiscal cliff, and to his left there’ll be Obama’s outstretched hand." Since his caucus won't allow him to reach for that outstretched hand, I'd suggest that its "fiscal cliff - here we come." That folks, is what the beast in its death throes looks like.
UPDATE: Steve Benen does a good job of describing the untenable position Boehner is in. And yesterday, I'm sorry to say that one of my favorite writers - p m carpenter - joined the poutrage club. But today, when its clear what's actually going on here, he resorts once again to calling President Obama "lucky." We've been there before. It wasn't true then, and its not true now. STOP IT!