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August 30, 2013 2:53 PM Guess Who’s Not Coming To Dinner?

By Ed Kilgore

It’s official: the occasional so-called Diners Club the White House has been convening with Senate Republicans to discuss “grand” or not-so-grand fiscal bargains has been disbanded, per this report from WaPo’s Lori Montgomery:

“It’s very evident that there just isn’t common ground at present and we’ve all agreed there’s no reason for these talks to continue,” Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said after attending the group’s final session at the White House.
Asked what happens next, Corker said, “I have no idea.”

The meetings began with talk of a “grand bargain” that might have included changes in the benefit formulas for Social Security and Medicare (which alarmed many Democrats) and ended with consideration of smaller deals focused on “tax reform” and appropriations. But in the end, the refusal of Republicans to consider net revenue increases or tax rate increases made the whole effort—and with it, potential “deals” of varying quality—moot. Indeed, it sounds like the last dinner was as much about foreign as fiscal policy:

The final meeting came Thursday at the White House, where the group also discussed potential military action against Syria. The eight senators were Corker, Johnny Isakson (Ga.), Daniel Coats (Ind.), Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), John Hoeven (N.D.), Ronald H. Johnson (Wis.) and, joining by phone, John McCain (Ariz.) and Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.).

It was always a chimera that this band of Republicans could have sold any really promising “deal,” even if they were willing to move on revenues, to other GOP senators, much less their House colleagues. In the end, what mainly separated them from other GOPers was the willingness to talk up-close instead of ranting and snarling from a distance. So the president gets the benefit of looking reasonable and willing to compromise, and the rest of us can move on to the fiscal collision just ahead.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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