With the fiscal cliff deadline just over a week away, President Obama is putting his foot down, demanding that Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) back down.
A behind-the-scenes Wall Street Journal report on the negotiations shows the president has a clear upper hand:
“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.”
At one point, Boehner told the president, “I put $800 billion [in tax revenue] on the table. What do I get for that?”
Replied Obama: “You get nothing. I get that for free.”
The White House expects that if a deal isn’t reached, the House will have no choice but to pass the Senate-passed bill to let Bush tax cuts expire for people earning $250,000, the Washington Post says. That would lead to about $700 billion in revenue, showing that Obama was right in saying that he gets the extra tax revenue for free, whether Boehner makes a deal or not.
Obama’s best-case scenario would be to make a deal with Boehner to avoid going over the cliff, but if we do go over the cliff the Republicans lose all of their leverage. So there’s no impetus for the president to make a deal that gives up much of anything.
If we did go over the cliff, a deal would need to be struck immediately just to keep the government functioning, and it looks like the longer negotiations are stretched out, the less Republicans will get.
The WSJ report also has Boehner asking to go back to the deal Obama offered at the end of 2011, and the president replying “you missed your chance on that.”
“Today, Boehner wishes he’d taken the deal the president offered him in 2011,” the Washington Post says. “A year from now, he might wish he’d taken the deal the president offered him in 2012.”
This chart from Dylan Matthews and the Washington Post shows how increasingly the Republican position is weakening: