To understand why they can't produce a plan, we have to take a look at their positioning on the relevant issues. First of all, we know from the reporting done during the presidential campaign that Romney's idea of limiting deductions on things like charitable giving and home mortgages can't raise enough revenue without socking it to the middle class. As President Clinton said...its arithmetic. So we can't go there.
On the spending side, Romney also blew it on how Republicans talk about Medicare. Remember how he savaged the $716 billion in savings President Obama found in that program via Obamacare? Basically their line was "no changes to the current system." Instead, their big plan was to voucherize Medicare for future generations.
I'll let Jonathan Chait take it from there.
Republicans are demanding more spending cuts, but they won’t say how much they want, let alone what specifically they will cut. The current party thinking on Medicare, sanctified by Romney and Ryan, has defined itself as matching or even outspending Obama on Medicare for anybody aged 55 and up. That would lock out any budget savings at all for the next decade, and make any savings roll in extremely slowly afterward.You see...there's that whole "arithmetic" problem popping up again.
Republicans could present a plan like that in negotiations — deep Medicare cuts that don’t start to take effect until 2022. But, since the two sides have already cut discretionary spending to the bone, that would require that any deal necessarily have far more tax hikes than spending cuts over the next decade. But Republicans don’t want that, either. It’s not clear that their goals can be expressed at all, at least not in arithmetically coherent form.
In other words, President Obama's plan has covered all of the available pragmatic ground and the only thing left for the Republicans is to either cave or throw a tantrum. Of course they're choosing the latter.