Speaker Boehner goes before the House GOP conference today to detail the status of his negotiations with President Obama on a "fiscal cliff" deal. Up to this point the negotiations, which could result in the biggest US tax hike in history, have played out behind closed doors, punctured by the occasional media leak. As a result, rank-and-file members have been largely quiet about the talk's progress. That could end today, as specific details of a possible deal emerge.
For several weeks, the GOP Leadership was mostly negotiating with itself. They strode from camera to camera, offering tax hikes and imploring Obama to release specific spending cuts. The talks were going nowhere. Boehner seemed to jump-start the talks on Friday, by surrendering two core GOP principles. First, he offered to increase tax rates on those making more than $1 million. Second, he offered to include a one-year debt ceiling increase in any "fiscal cliff" deal.
Obama countered yesterday with a proposal to raise tax rates on those making $400,000, a two-year debt ceiling deal and, in a nod to the GOP, adjusting how the government accounts for inflation, lowering cost-of-living increases in Social Security.
Obama and Boehner have met or spoken several times in the past few days. It is likely they will have a frame work of a deal before the end of the week. The question now becomes, will rank-and-file GOP members be able to swallow it?
Many Republicans have signaled they could agree to increase tax rates on the "wealthy," if there were significant spending cuts and entitlement reform. The spending cuts leaked so far aren't anywhere close to that threshold. The inflation adjustment to Social Security is a band-aid, shaving just around $200 billion over a decade. And, according to reports, Obama wants tens of billions in new infrastructure spending as part of any deal.
I have spoken with several Congressional offices over the past week. All have been tight-lipped about the "cliff" negotiations. All have stated they'd have to "see the details" before offering any comment. Today, they will get at least a glimpse of those details.
After today, the sounds of silence from GOP members will be past its expiration date. Will they accept $1 trillion+ in tax hikes for modest spending cuts and a new stimulus package? That seems to be the broad deal their leader has negotiated on their behalf. It's time for the members to go on the record on behalf of their constituents.
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