Political Animal


November 22, 2011 8:00 AM ‘There will be no easy offramps’

By Steve Benen

President Obama addressed the failure of the super-committee late yesterday afternoon, delivering some brief remarks to reporters at the White House. I expected obligatory “isn’t this a shame” comments, but it was actually more interesting than that.

It was clear, for example, that the president wanted to remind Republicans who’s responsible for the breakdown of the process. Obama noted that GOP lawmakers rejected several large and fair debt-reduction plans, before ultimately opposing any plan that called for broad sacrifices.

But the president also explained that he sees the super-committee’s failure as effectively a first step, not a last step. “One way or another, we will be trimming the deficit by a total of at least $2.2 trillion over the next 10 years,” he said. “That’s going to happen. We’ve got $1 trillion locked in, and either Congress comes up with [an additional] $1.2 trillion, which so far they’ve failed to do, or the sequester kicks in and these automatic spending cuts will occur.”

And what about Republicans who now oppose their own spending cut ideas? The president explained, “My message to them is simple: No.” Obama vowed to veto any measure that would scrap the automatic cuts without a comparable debt-reduction package. “There will be no easy offramps on this one,” he added.

Think of it this way: Republicans agreed to a deal with the White House, and now Republicans are eager, if not desperate, to renege on their end of the bargain. That’s not spin; it’s just how the process is unfolding. GOP lawmakers, in effect, said, “If the super-committee fails, we’ll accept $600 billion in defense cuts.” Now that the super-committee has failed, those exact same lawmakers are saying, “We no longer want to accept $600 billion in defense cuts.”

Yesterday, Obama offered a response to the GOP: too bad. Republicans set the terms of this deal, then Republicans accepted the deal. The only thing that’s changed over the last three months is the GOP’s willingness to live with the consequences of the party’s own idea.

But there’s still plenty of time for additional talks, and in reference to lawmakers, he added yesterday, “They’ve still got a year to figure it out.” If congressional leaders — independent of the now-defunct super-committee — can come up with a bipartisan deal that cuts the debt by $1.2 trillion over the next decade, great. If not, as far as Obama’s concerned, the cuts Congress already approved will happen.

And at that point, the president shifted his attention to the next fight: an extension of the payroll tax cut.

“Before Congress leaves next month, we have to work together to cut taxes for workers and small business owners all across America. If we don’t act, taxes will go up for every single American, starting next year. And I’m not about to let that happen. Middle-class Americans can’t afford to lose $1,000 next year because Congress won’t act. And I can only hope that members of Congress who’ve been fighting so hard to protect tax breaks for the wealthy will fight just as hard to protect tax breaks for small business owners and middle-class families.

“We still need to put construction workers back on the job rebuilding our roads and our bridges. We still need to put our teachers back in the classroom educating our kids.

“So when everybody gets back from Thanksgiving, it’s time to get some work done for the American people. All around the country, Americans are working hard to live within their means and meet their responsibilities. And I know they expect Washington to do the same.”

Obama will be taking a similar message to New Hampshire today, and I expect the White House will be focused on little else for the rest of the calendar year.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • c u n d gulag on November 22, 2011 8:10 AM:

    Republicans aren't necessarily looking for "Offramps" - they'll be happy to settle for "Dead Ends" until after the '12 elections.

  • Midland on November 22, 2011 8:12 AM:

    NPR putting the usual Republican talking points on this morning, three second comments from McConnell and Sessions blaming it all on President Obama. Obama at last seems to understand that he has to keep on the attack. He is the only Democrat who can get enough time on the national media to push back against the Republican propaganda machine.

  • Danp on November 22, 2011 8:12 AM:

    It will be interesting to see what tea party Republicans do for the next year. They have largely stayed clear of the we-need-a-bigger-army crowd and focused almost exclusively on deficits and spending. The "compromise" was tailor-made for their rhetoric. Even John Boehner said Republicans got 98% of what they wanted. Merry Christmas, guys.

    Now what are you going to do about jobs?

  • POed Lib on November 22, 2011 8:12 AM:

    Obama made a serious error cutting the payroll tax. It was not a good idea then, and it remains a stupid idea now. The payroll tax should be RAISED, by raising the ceiling. Some of us are out by October, some much earlier. Restore the payroll tax, and raise the limit of income.

  • VerySadOldVet on November 22, 2011 8:19 AM:

    All of this is a sad comment on our government...

    Our Government

    Constitutionally, there are three branches of our government. First, there is the presidency, which is somewhat accountable to the people every four years. Second, there is the Congress, which is somewhat accountable to the people every two or six years, but completely beholden to big money in between. Third, there is the Judiciary, which is accountable to nobody.

    Then there are the unelected fourth and fifth branches of government. The unelected fourth branch of government is the Federal Reserve, which is accountable only to banking interests.

    Even worse is the recent development of an unelected fifth branch of government, Grover Norquist. Grover owns a large percentage of elected congress-critters and senators. Grover is accountable only to his money providers and it is not legally possible to determine who they are.

    Thanks to the Supremes for the Citizens United Not Timid (CUNT) vs FEC ruling of January 15, 2010. There are now no rules constraining the Grover Norquists and the Karl Roves from exerting more and more control over elected politicians and assuring that our federal government is owned by the wealthy.

    We should be thankful that the Super-Duper Committee did not succeed in further implementing the goals of big money. And it was not as if the dumbocraps didn't try to start the destruction of social security and medicare!

  • Joe Marcus on November 22, 2011 8:27 AM:

    "There are now no rules constraining George Soros and the Wall Street bankers from exerting more and more control over elected politicians and assuring that our federal government is owned by the wealthy."

  • pol on November 22, 2011 8:32 AM:

    Joe Marcus @ 8:27 -- Oh, pu-lease. Give it up, will you? George Soros?

  • sick-n-effn-tired. on November 22, 2011 8:36 AM:

    I love listening to the howls of complaint about "weakening' our military. What they are worried about is the teat of defense procurement drying up the one that Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raethon and a host of other mega corporations that could not survive without.They need a place to sell their overpriced hardware such as f35's Explain to me again who we are going to fight with this $112 million each fighter ( total program $382 billion) super fighter that can be brought down with the same missile that would bring down an F-15 (aproximate cost $15 million)The Saudis seemed to think f-15s are just fine as they just bought 80 of them .

  • j on November 22, 2011 8:44 AM:

    The chorus on Morning Joke are busy spinning this as an Obama fail!

  • SYSPROG on November 22, 2011 8:50 AM:

    What I love is the spin about 'the President's lack of leadership' in the Super Committee. The GOP ASKED the President to stay out of it. That he would 'politicize' the process. And now they 'politicize' that the President did not 'show leadership' by MAKING the Dems cave to them. For God's SAKE Congress! This is your flippin* JOB. If you were in the private sector (that you adore touting) your asses would be OUT. This is a monumental FAILURE of 'compromise'...and being whiny brats doesn't change that. Oh and Joe Marcus? It's AMAZING how 'George Soros' has ALL the power of Wall Street and the Koch Brothers and the Texas millionaires and the Supremes and ...

  • sjw on November 22, 2011 8:52 AM:

    More from Obama just like this. More more more. Every single day. If nothing else, it helps his reelection chances. But it also makes it more likely he gets a deal that helps the economy and workers. Republican success depends on the usual MSM fail: only Obama can short circuit that. (Does Plouffe realize this???? I still have my doubts.)

  • Kiweagle on November 22, 2011 8:57 AM:

    I was actually less impressed with Obama's response to the super-committee's announcement of failure since he didn't even bother to explain exactly how the GOP got us into this mess in the first place.

    1. Budget crisis - GOP threatens a govt. shutdown.
    2. Debt Ceiling crisis - GOP threatens a govt. shutdown.
    3. 2nd Debt Ceiling crisis - GOP threatens a govt. shutdown but compromises by creating the 12 member group and triggers to motivate them.
    4. Super-committee Trigger crisis - GOP blames Dems and Obama for triggers GOP insisted upon.
    5. Tax Cuts crisis - GOP blames Dems and Obama for expiration date GOP created to hide long-term costs.

    Seriously, who has even the faintest clue about the above after Obama's speech?

    P.S. Additions or corrections to the above list is/ are welcome.

  • hells littlest angel on November 22, 2011 8:59 AM:

    POed Lib: cutting the payroll tax was the only way Obama could get some stimulus money into the economy. It's a temporary measure which he'll try to get extended for another year. Me, I wouldn't mind seeing my own payroll taxes go back up, but for the overall economy they have, along with the extension of unemployment benefits, made a significant contribution to economic growth, and they're something that will help keep us from sliding back into recession next year.

  • just bill on November 22, 2011 9:07 AM:

    what i especially liked was the tone he used. he spoke like a disappointed father berating his spoiled children.

    more of this please. every day.

  • berttheclock on November 22, 2011 9:14 AM:

    @j, yes, lots of hand wringing on "Mourning" Joe, especially, by the Tennessee weasel, Ford. Loved the way Senator Dick Durbin, quietly, but effectively, put Ford in his place regarding Ford whining Obama should have done more and met with Congress more. Durbin evened corrected Andrea Mitchell's remark that Toomey had offered a tax plan.

  • Joe Marcus on November 22, 2011 9:18 AM:

    Thank you pol and SYSPROG you proved my point. It appears that the two of you only look at the failings of the situation in one way as well otherwise you would have come down on VerySadOldVet and stated "[o]h, pu-lease. [g]ive it up, will you?" and "[i]t's AMAZING how 'Karl Rove' has ALL the power [ ]and Norquist and the [ ] millionaires and the Supremes and ..." You are just as guilty of not having an open mind.

  • ComradeAnon on November 22, 2011 9:22 AM:

    Great. Now the republicans have gotten Dems to say "You MUST accept these trillions in cuts." Whose zooming who?

  • Wayne on November 22, 2011 9:24 AM:

    What's interesting is that the GOP, the "fiscally responsible" party must be FORCED to be fiscally responsible by Obama and the Democrats. And they (Boehner)will cry like little babies.

  • square1 on November 22, 2011 9:37 AM:

    Sounded great right up until Obama started whining about the sunset of the Bush tax cuts.

    If Democrats want to play hardball with the GOP -- and that is a big, big "if" -- the biggest weapon that Democrats have in their arsenal is the sunseting of the tax cuts. Obama's rhetoric, in which he decries restoring the tax code to what the rates were when the U.S had its most sustained Druid of growth ever, is dumb politics and dumb policy.

    First, on politics, if Obama wants the GOP to deal he should be signaling that he is gladly willing to let the cuts expire. Almost unbelievably, Obama is managing to give the GOP leverage by saying that he will do whatever it takes to avoid the tax increases.

    Second, on policy, Obama is fucked in the head. Americans can do just fine with higher tax rates, as they did in the 90's. If Obama wants to keep an extra $1k in people's pockets he should worry about growing the economy, not keeping tax rates below the level necessary to pay for needed service.

    I hope everybody realizes the hypocrisy when Obama complains about the economic conditions that he inherited when he supports probably 90% of the Bush tax cuts.

  • SYSPROG on November 22, 2011 9:46 AM:

    Joe Marcus @9:18 AM...yep I have a 'closed mind'. Especially when you guys tell me an 'OPEN mind' is to give you everything you want AND get all entitlements. Yep. I love you guys.

  • Anonymous on November 22, 2011 9:47 AM:

    So what does the WSJ do today? THANK GROVER NORQUIST, and get everything wrong about the President...color me surprised!

  • SYSPROG on November 22, 2011 9:47 AM:

    Sorry...I meant GUT all the entitlements.

  • berttheclock on November 22, 2011 10:04 AM:

    @joe marcus, the Koch Brothers own many of our state legislatures through their controlling ALEC and Americans for Prosperity. They, also, own many house and senate members through those two groups, as well. If their selected runner Cain secedes, they will own the Presidency. Soros is a piker compared to the power of the Koch Brothers.

  • bdop4 on November 22, 2011 10:32 AM:

    All of this is complete and utter bullshit.

    Where is the job creation? Deficit reduction is the LAST issue we should be concerned with right now, and it's sucking up all the air time, thanks to both parties.

    You can't work on an issue if you never make it one. And I don't care if the GOP won't agree. Aggressively call for spending on infrastructure repairs and beat them night and day with it until they submit.

  • imjustsayin on November 22, 2011 12:45 PM:

    With this committee stalemate I think, in addition to congressional insider trading reform, there should be a citizens movement to demand that each member of congress can only be paid their tax funded salary as a percentage of actual votes taken ONLY on bills that reach the full House and/or Senate floor. Now THAT's real reform!

  • Rudy Gonzales on November 22, 2011 5:17 PM:

    Where are the jobs promised in 2010? Where are our representatives when they are supposed to represent all of us? Why is there a greater allegiance towards and for people like Bob Vander Plaats and lobbyist like Grover Norquist, rather than the American people or economy? Why are Vander Plaat and Norquist allowed to be the puppet-masters of the TEA-GOP-Republican fringe!

  • Doug on November 22, 2011 11:20 PM:

    square1, the unemployment rate wasn't 9% durng the 90s.
    That MIGHT have something to do with it.
    Or it might just be YOUR usual Democrat-bashing.
    I report, you decide...