Mr. Obama repeatedly lost patience with the speaker as negotiations faltered. In an Oval Office meeting last week, he told Mr. Boehner that if the sides didn't reach agreement, he would use his inaugural address and his State of the Union speech to tell the country the Republicans were at fault.Does that sound like a President who is negotiating with himself? Anything but!
At one point, according to notes taken by a participant, Mr. Boehner told the president, "I put $800 billion [in tax revenue] on the table. What do I get for that?"
"You get nothing," the president said. "I get that for free."
Its interesting to note how the President responded when Boehner started begging for the "grand bargain" he rejected during the debt ceiling negotiations.
On Dec. 13, Mr. Boehner went to the White House at the president's request, joking he was going to the woodshed.As I've noted previously, those concessions included extending the tax cuts for income under $1 million and extending the debt limit for one to two years. Here's how they describe the discussions after that:
The president told him he could choose one of two doors. The first represented a big deal. If Mr. Boehner chose it, the president said, the country and financial markets would cheer. Door No. 2 represented a spike in interest rates and a global recession.
Mr. Boehner said he wanted a deal along the lines of what the two men had negotiated in the summer of 2011 in a fight over raising the debt ceiling. "You missed your opportunity on that," the president told him.
That night, the speaker and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.) decided to make the biggest concession so far.
In that session, the president held firm for $1.2 trillion in additional tax revenue, a second step down from his original offer. Mr. Boehner asked for another $100 billion in spending cuts but couldn't get a commitment.We all know the story about the Republican fiasco that resulted.
Finally, the speaker said, "Well, you and I can sit here and stare at each other," or he could leave and they would talk later.
Back in the Capitol, Mr. Boehner told Mr. Cantor the president wasn't moving. They agreed to call him. On the call, Mr. Boehner restated he needed $1 in spending cuts for every $1 in revenue raised. He dropped a prior demand to increase the Medicare eligibility age.
The president told Mr. Boehner that he was willing to make some concessions on taxes and spending, but cautioned that they needed to retain Democratic votes for the bill to pass.
The speaker raised the prospect of moving a backup bill. White House officials said Mr. Boehner didn't reveal what Plan B comprised. Administration officials expected a few more days of back-and-forth, but the speaker thought the prospects were dim for a big deal.
I see nowhere that President Obama put chained CPI on the table - the subject that has gotten the most attention lately. Perhaps it is inferred in the suggestion that the President "was willing to make some concessions on taxes and spending." But that was qualified by the reality that he "needed to retain Democratic votes for the bill to pass." So it certainly doesn't sound like a sure thing. And if it was ever "on the table," it was in response to Republican concessions on:
- Raising taxes on the wealthy
- Extending the debt limit
- Dropping the demand to increase the Medicare eligibility age
- Extending unemployment benefits
- Additional stimulus spending
Its clear now that Boehner couldn't deliver on those concessions. But then, whatever the President put on the table in response is also
mute moot - just like the 2011 grand bargain.
That's a fascinating look at our Negotiator-in-Chief. And it defies all the stereotypes that have developed amongst the poutragers about him being willing to negotiate with himself.