For the first time in weeks, President Obama and Speaker of the House John Boehner met face to face in an attempt to overcome disagreements about the fiscal cliff. White House spokesperson Josh Earnest stated, “This afternoon, the President and Speaker Boehner met at the White House to discuss efforts to resolve the fiscal cliff. We’re not reading out details of the conversation, but the lines of communication remain open.”
In other words, get ready for a Republican cave.
Speaker Boehner has repeatedly said that increasing tax rates is not on the table. And President Obama has stated that he sees no reason to negotiate on raising the top marginal tax rates. But today, Republican spokespeople seemed ready to give Obama what he wants. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) said that if the White House was ready to discuss entitlement reform, he’d be open to raising tax rates; Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) stated that he’d be open to raising the top tax rate, too. Meanwhile, Democrats offered … precisely nothing.
Even though there is an increasing consensus emerging that the fiscal cliff will, in the long term, hurt President Obama rather than Republicans, Republicans seem bound and determined to think short term. If tax rates rise dramatically and defense is slashed, and if the economy does fall into recession, the American people will want more tax cuts and more defense spending – which would help Republicans. If, by contrast, Republicans sign off on Obama’s deal and the economy goes bad, Republicans will have to face the wrath of their own base.
This is a no-win situation for Republicans if they cave. Nonetheless, they seem ready to do so.