Cliff deal talks on the verge of a meltdown

Talks to avoid going over the fiscal cliff on January 1 appear to be hopelessly stalled as the president and Speaker Boehner traded charges of intransigence yesterday.


The dueling public statements signaled that little has fundamentally changed between Obama and Boehner, who have been here before. They got close to a grand bargain on the debt and deficit in 2011 only to see it crumble amid partisan pressures. Both felt burned.

On Wednesday, it looked like history had a good shot at repeating itself, as the tenuous progress they made over the past week seemed to unravel.


Obama, betraying some of those bruised feelings, said Republicans just need to "take the deal."

"They keep on finding ways to say 'no' as opposed to finding ways to say 'yes,'" Obama said. "And I don't know how much of that just has to do with, you know, it is very hard for them to say yes to me. But, you know, at some point, you know, they've got to take me out of it and think about their voters and think about what's best for the country."

Boehner's Plan B bill is going nowhere, Obama added.


He's likely to get an assist on that point from congressional Democratic leaders.


The distance between Obama and Boehner on Wednesday was particularly striking on Capitol Hill, where the speaker spent Wednesday working to pass his fallback plan to raise tax rates on income above $1 million.

Boehner took his pitch to Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy's (R-Calif.) office, where he spoke to a meeting of deputy whips - the small group of lawmakers tasked with taking stock of how Republicans are voting and with trying to convince them to support leadership priorities.

It was a rare appearance in front of this group - several lawmakers said Boehner has attended fewer than five times before, including once during the 2011 debt limit showdown - and underscored his concern about avoiding a defeat on his own bill. The Republican vote-counting team was predicting a razor-thin margin.

Note the president believes it's all about him rather than the rancid proposals he is putting forward. Republicans may have a hard time getting to "yes" with Obama but the president can't resist saying "no" in order to stick it to his political adversaries. He's not just maneuvering for a deal. He is manuevering so that blame for failure sticks to the GOP. The two goals are incompatible which is why Boehner has taken up his hopeless effort to pass his "Plan B" in the House. The Senate won't deign to vote on it and Obama has promised a veto anyway.

If Boehner loses his Plan B vote in the House, there may be serious talk again about challenging him for the speakership. So, if the speaker has any chits left in his pocket, time to collect on them. A successful vote won't save the Middle Class from tax increases, nor will it deflect much blame from the GOP in the eyes of the public as the country falls off the fiscal cliff.

But it would keep the party together as we head into the new year and renewed negotiations.

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