Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 5, 2011

AS BUDGET TALKS COLLAPSE, BOEHNER MOVES THE GOALPOSTS.... President Obama hosted budget talks at the White House this morning, and by all accounts, they went nowhere. Indeed, at a moment when progress is absolutely necessary, it appears the entire process is collapsing.

And why are negotiations going backwards? Greg Sargent flags an important reason.

With a government shutdown looming and budget talks apparently at a standstill, Democratic aides are accusing the GOP of moving the goalposts for compromise yet again.

A senior Senate Democratic aide tells me that in today's private meeting at the White House, Speaker John Boehner signaled to the President and to Harry Reid that Republicans were not willing to support any budget compromise that can't garner the votes of 218 Republicans in the House. That would be a break from the GOP's previous posture: Republican leaders had appeared willing to reach a deal that could pass the House with Republican and Democratic support, even if it meant losing some Republicans.

This is no small revelation. The Speaker's goal is no longer getting the 218 votes necessary to pass, it's getting 218 Republican votes. It's tempting to think Boehner would be thrilled to complete a deal with bipartisan support, but the opposite is proving to be true.

As a practical matter, that means the Speaker is insisting on a deal that would lose no more than 23 member of his own caucus -- there are 241 House Republicans, and if 23 break ranks, he can still end up with 218 GOP votes. But we already know the size of hysterical wing of the House GOP caucus is far bigger than 23 people.

And that's why he's moving the goalposts. Boehner could take the deal that's on the table, pass the bill, and avoid a shutdown, but he won't because it's more important to him to pass the bill with Republican votes, instead of bipartisan support.

So, what's next? The Speaker is scheduled to meet privately with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) in about an hour, and maybe the GOP leadership will be more cooperative if it isn't seen as striking a deal with the White House, but it's unlikely. President Obama spoke to reporters this afternoon, and said he'll bring back the relevant players to the White House every day this week to keep talks going, but given Republican intransigence, it's hard to imagine what else there is to talk about.

For what it's worth, the president repeatedly referred this afternoon to a specific, relevant point -- the spending cuts he's prepared to accept are just as big as those originally proposed by the House Republican leadership. It's challenging, if not outright silly, for the GOP to argue that the scope of the budget cuts is simply too small when the party's own leaders are already on record asking for the White House is now offering.

But reason, propriety, and common sense obviously have no role in this debate whatsoever.

Steve Benen 3:05 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (30)

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Comments

It's tempting to think Boehner would be thrilled to complete a deal with bipartisan support, but the opposite is proving to be true.

David Broder leaves the room and bipartisanship goes right down the toilet.

Posted by: martin on April 5, 2011 at 3:10 PM | PERMALINK

If Boehner negotiates a bi-partisan deal the Republicans will sack him. I don't know how they'll do it, but they'll bend the rules or just change them to sack him. He's dead if he does.

So the question is, how long can the US last during the shutdown and what does this mean for the debt ceiling?

Posted by: Raptor on April 5, 2011 at 3:19 PM | PERMALINK

The only thing that wasn't clear yesterday was what excuse the Republicans would give for shutting down the government.

All the current talks are designed for a single purpose - to give the Republican propaganda machine fodder to blame the Democrats so that Republicans don't see a repeat of the 1995 fiasco.

I was wondering yesterday if Boehner had planned this. Now it's clear. He did.

Posted by: Rick B on April 5, 2011 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

So if there is a shutdown, how quickly will we see the impact in unemployment?

Posted by: Quaker in a Basement on April 5, 2011 at 3:23 PM | PERMALINK

You know what this is all about, don't you?

The orange Boner is worried about getting tossed from the speakership. If he reaches a deal with the WH and house dems, that won't be good enough for the teabaggers.

In fact, they'll see it as treason. Fuck them. Go ahead and shut down the government. Let the two year olds throw their temper tantrum.

As for America - see what happens when you give the car keys to emotionally disturbed adolescents? Just what the fuck did you THINK was going to happen?

Posted by: Four Legsgood on April 5, 2011 at 3:24 PM | PERMALINK

I work for a medium-sized Federal agency. We're now getting instructions on what to do if/when the shutdown occurs. In my agency, we're turning everything off and locking the door. I've even been told to take the battery out of my Blackberry so I don't inadvertently incur any costs during the shutdown by trying to access the BB servers.

Now, how do I pay my mortgage or feed my family? Oh wait... I'm a lazy shiftless no-good leech on the taxpayers, so I deserve to suffer.

Posted by: Eeyore on April 5, 2011 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

All the current talks are designed for a single purpose - to give the Republican propaganda machine fodder to blame the Democrats so that Republicans don't see a repeat of the 1995 fiasco.

I was wondering yesterday if Boehner had planned this. Now it's clear. He did.

Sorry, I disagree - this is Boehner trying to save his own skin. He has completely lost control of the terrorists in his own caucus.

Posted by: Four Legsgood on April 5, 2011 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

And in a surprise appearance at the WH, Obama once again agreed to $73 billion in cuts, and then hinted that maybe Boehner wasn't agreeing.

Meanwhile, still nothing about the Republicans trying to destroy Medicare and Medicaid.

Can you imagine what would have happened if the situation had been reversed? Can you imagine what Rove and the Bush WH would have been doing all day -- no, all week -- to manage the message about the negotiations? Can you imagine the roar about a proposal from a Democratic Congressman comparable in scope to Ryan's?

Honestly, it's as though the Democrats want to lose...

Posted by: bleh on April 5, 2011 at 3:31 PM | PERMALINK

Now, how do I pay my mortgage or feed my family? Oh wait... I'm a lazy shiftless no-good leech on the taxpayers, so I deserve to suffer.

Jeez - I am so sorry. Seriously. Of course I'm more sorry that these assholes are doing this to the country.

What a cluster fuck.

Posted by: Four Legsgood on April 5, 2011 at 3:31 PM | PERMALINK

Eeyore,

Our thoughts are with you and the thousands of others like you. I know that it's not much of a consolation, but we all hope for the best for you. Hang in there and stay strong.

Posted by: Mitch on April 5, 2011 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK
This is no small revelation. The Speaker's goal is no longer getting the 218 votes necessary to pass, it's getting 218 Republican votes. It's tempting to think Boehner would be thrilled to complete a deal with bipartisan support, but the opposite is proving to be true.

I think it's important to characterize this the right way. The sticking point is not actually an arbitrary number of Republican votes, it's getting a proposal that could pass with no Democratic votes. That's what 218 means. 121 would be a majority of the Republican caucus, which ought to be enough to keep Boehner in the Speaker's chair.

218 is about Republicans wanting to cut House Democrats out of the discussion entirely, and nothing more. That's the "principle" they're willing to shut down the government over.

Posted by: Redshift on April 5, 2011 at 3:48 PM | PERMALINK

This is now officially Kabuki Theater. The President should continue to negotiate but also continue to interject the ideological aspect of this GOP stunt into every comment from this point on. The GOP has overreached. Let them hang out there for awhile. Beohner looks like a fool. He is stuck with 87 complete idiots and he is running scared from them. By the way, the New Boy Genuis of the Far Right, Paul Ryan, might want to make a quick field trip back to Wisconsin and see how his radical ideology is being received there. They have collected recall signatures on every State Senator who has served for over one year. Elections will be this summer, and then they'll come for Walker in January. The Koch Brothers can always use another pool boy. If the wingnut State Supreme Court candidate is defeated today Walker will be toast a lot sooner then January. The court was his last hope as he trys to sneak his law-that-isn't-a-law under the search lights. And I seriously doubt if he has the votes to pass the original union busting bill in a redo. His supporters in the Senate are already running away from him.

Posted by: max on April 5, 2011 at 3:51 PM | PERMALINK

Why isn't every Dem in Washington grabbing every mic in sight and yelling about the Repubs being oppsed to bipartisanship? Throughout the Health Care debate all we heard was about how the Dems refused to reach a bipartisan agreement. Now the Repubs are saying they will shut down the country unless they have a totally partisan agreement.

Posted by: MW on April 5, 2011 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

So, Boehner will lose the speakership if he cuts a deal -- so what? Has he had such a good time so far that he has any reason to want to continue in the job? Why doesn't he just pack his bags now, get the compromise bill passed and call it a day?

Posted by: T-Rex on April 5, 2011 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK

BOEHNER MOVES THE GOALPOSTS

Lucy on steroids.

Posted by: Danp on April 5, 2011 at 3:58 PM | PERMALINK

Eeyore, what Mitch said. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

Not only is the GOP fucking with the American economy, but when they reject raising the debt ceiling, the global economy is going to be bent over and fucked silly. Someone tell me what investors are going to want to invest in America after that. Talk about extreme uncertainty. We'll be digging out for decades from this GOP nightmare.

Posted by: MsJoanne on April 5, 2011 at 4:01 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks, Mitch and Legsgood! Appreciate the support.

People around my office are walking around in a daze. We work hard, we try to do a good job, and we all feel like we're being kicked in the teeth. But, as we're continually told, government jobs aren't "real jobs."

Posted by: Eeyore on April 5, 2011 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK

And Obama says he'll have Reid and Boehner back tomorrow to keep negotiating.

Let's see, we're at $73 billion now, the Teatards wanted $100 billion, how much more do you figure Obama will give them? At least $17 billion I would say, so they can claim they got $90 billion. Or maybe he'll just give them the whole $27 billion, which he'll then claim is "only" $27 billion, and they'll claim is $100 billion. But there won't be any riders, or maybe only one or two.

They get all they want, and the Village has an orgasm about how bipartisan it all is. Watch for it.

Posted by: bleh on April 5, 2011 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK

These are bad people. It's that simple.

Posted by: Bruce S on April 5, 2011 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK

And the GOP will STILL try to blame the Dems for being unwilling to compromise??? I say make this post a COMMERCIAL and let the poeple see it!!!

Posted by: SYSPROG on April 5, 2011 at 4:11 PM | PERMALINK

There's Obama, the fighter again. I mean I just love that he's conceded that he's conceded to all of the original Republican demands. Why the hell wouldn't the Republicans change the goal posts?

Posted by: Vince on April 5, 2011 at 4:12 PM | PERMALINK

Y'all can blame "Suntan Johnnie" all you want. I can't blame him for wanting to keep a job that is just 2 heart beats away from the Oval Office. I mean the Majority Leader is a total jerk, but he knows how to count votes.

If POTUS had displayed leadership and a spine from the beginning, instead of the 'post-partisan' crap, we would not be in the situation we are now in.

The RepubliKKKans don't play nice and the Dems haven't figured it out - yet.

Posted by: Chief on April 5, 2011 at 4:13 PM | PERMALINK

The question for me is, so the Republicans shut down government (just as they promised they would do during the 2010 campaign season), so what has to change to reopen government? The Republicans have been absolutely against all compromise so far. If the stock market crashes and the economy tanks? Essential services stopped and millions on furlough? What will be enough for these radical ideologues to support the budget?

And that is just for this year! God help us when they start "negotiating" on the 2012 budget.

Posted by: PTate in MN on April 5, 2011 at 4:13 PM | PERMALINK

If Obama and "progressive" dems wanted to come out swinging for the fences, they'd go to the media and offer a bill with $85 billion in deficit reduction. Read it line by line, "$400 million for XT-5 a prototype non-functioning cold war era weapons system....don't need that.......$1.2 billion for NAV-V77 another cold war era navy ship....don't need that.....$230 million for a redundant jet engine....don't need that......$1.4 billion for oil company subsidies.... don't need those."

Then, at the end, remind reporters that we could keep all those toys, plus have about $320 billion to use toward deficit reduction for this fiscal year, if Republicans hadn't insisted on cutting taxes on people making over $1 million dollars.

Posted by: Oh my on April 5, 2011 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK

Agreed with everything youall said about the Republicans and the facts and the politics, but except for the Village orgasm remark, I did not see any comments about how the media are presenting the budget issue. President Obama's remarks in his press conference were logical, cogent and, I'm sure, true as to facts. But since then, the coverage on CNN, and MSNBC (forget Fox) is sticking to the "balanced" line that it's all partisanship. Boehner's line about "smoke and mirrors" is repeated and repeated, without Obama's reply and explanation. Both liberals and conservatives interviewed are on the attack. As a result, the most recent polls show that a majority of the public feels that neither party is willing to compromise. That confirms what I'm reading and seeing on the teevee, but not what the players are actually saying. Bad day for freedom of the press.

Posted by: Brownell on April 5, 2011 at 4:17 PM | PERMALINK

It's tempting to think Boehner would be thrilled to complete a deal with bipartisan support, but the opposite is proving to be true.

It's too bad David Broder insn't around to tell us how important its for for Obama to show some leadership and and champion bipartisanship by caving to Boner's demand to pass a partisan budget.

Posted by: Winkandanod on April 5, 2011 at 4:39 PM | PERMALINK

What really amazes me is that people many people who claim to be Democrats focus all their blame on the President and Democrats while Republican maintain united front.

Posted by: nk007 on April 5, 2011 at 4:43 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, this whole moment in our nation's history is utter Bull Shit!

Irresponsible elected officials making fecal matter out of a budgetary process where revenue streams aren't even part of the discussion.

We're broke - Bull Shit!

We need to cut government spending - Bull Shit!

We need shared sacrifice - Bull Shit until the top 2% wealth misers get taxed at the old 39.6% rate prior to the economy damaging Bush Tax cuts. Until that time - Bull Shit!

Boehner and Cantor - Bull Shit!

Lack of leadership from President Obama - Bull Shit!

Mitch McConnell's efforts to make Pres. Obama a one termer by sabotaging recovery anyway he can - Bull Shit!

Yet, the culture in the Beltway thinks these examples are merely politics as usual. Well, here in America, if that is indeed the prevailing sentiment among the nation's villagers, that's just plain Bull Shit!

Hey politicos, I'm tired of smelling the foul air made by all your bull shit!

Quite wasting time, energy and resources on this Bull Shit you want us to bathe in and help Middle Class Americans meet their financial obligations instead of playing dirty politics! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on April 5, 2011 at 4:53 PM | PERMALINK

Eeyore,
Sorry to hear it. Same situation here in Alabama.
The Republicans will have to concoct one hell of a liberal blame story to cover a shut down. Lower Alabama sucks on the nipple of military money. These government workers are Fox loyalists and the very same conservatives who put a couple of those Belt-way hypocrites in their padded seats.

Posted by: Skip on April 5, 2011 at 5:47 PM | PERMALINK

This is an important development.

Just as one key reason the 90s shutdown was a GOP failure was that the public perceived Speaker Newt as being motivated by personal reasons rather than principles.

Here, Boehner is essentially (as far as I can tell) motivated to shutdown as a means of keeping his job as Speaker.

Dems need to portray this as a key talking point: we had a deal with Boehner but his radical members threatened to depose him from his cushy job if he didn't pull the plug. It's all about Boehner's personal political pride. He's selling out America.

Posted by: Jimo on April 5, 2011 at 11:05 PM | PERMALINK
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