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July 09, 2011

Split Between Boehner and Cantor?

Update: The original text of the WaPo article, the source of the quote below, appears to be gone. However, Cleveland.com has the text from the original article.

From the Washington Post:

Boehner is under even more pressure than the president and felt the need to tell his restive troops on Friday that no deal was imminent. He has been warned by his colleagues, among them House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), that he will have a revolt on his hands if he tries to strike this deal. Cantor has said he will not support what Boehner seems to be considering.

I wouldn't be surprised if there was a split. I've had some doubts about Speaker Boehner's basic negotiating skills ever since that interview with Chris Wallace last winter when he reassured everyone that a government shutdown wasn't on the table. Whether or not that was true, it's not something you would want to reveal before reaching a deal.

Then what kind of deal did we get? Remember the 2011 budget deal? That's the one that was sold to the public as 100 billion in cuts. And then it became 61 billion in cuts. Then it became 38 billion. Then 25 billion. And then something like 352 million, depending on who you read.

And what did Speaker Boehner say last week? He said we had a 50-50 chance of reaching a deal by Sunday. Again, not something you would want to say at that point in time. The rhetorical goal is to bluff the other side until the last possible crumb is gone from the table, and that means acting like your inner gorilla who secretly wants doom is about to come out of the closet. And that you're doing all you can to keep all the other crazy Republican gorillas in their respective closets. (And that's not even all that far from the truth with the new GOP class.) You're likely crazy, and you just might drive the car over the ledge. That kind of thing. Then you get your best deal.

I told Ace and the cobs the Democrats never seem to make this mistake. And about an hour later, Obama warned that both sides stood "far apart" on a debt deal. See? See how it's done? That's the first thing Speaker Boehner should have said.

In fairness, Speaker Boehner did backup yesterday, "It’s not like there’s some imminent deal about to happen."

Regardless, in poker you look for tells. I'm getting the impression that Speaker Boehner doesn't like hard negotiation. He favors collegiality. He just wants people to be reasonable and to get along. Heck, I'd prefer that too. But when was Nancy Pelosi ever reasonable? Was she ever concerned with getting along? Every time the Democrats make a hard stand and we compromise, we end up moving closer to their position.

It is beginning to look like Republicans have a tell, Speaker Boehner.

So am I supposed to rest easy now and believe that this crew is negotiating another killer deal for us?

Update: Boehner says no deal:

"Despite good-faith efforts to find common ground, the White House will not pursue a bigger debt reduction agreement without tax hikes. I believe the best approach may be to focus on producing a smaller measure, based on the cuts identified in the Biden-led negotiations, that still meets our call for spending reforms and cuts greater than the amount of any debt limit increase."

That's good, but it's likely Obama and the Democrats knew all along the GOP couldn't accept any tax increase, and that the tax increase proposal is really cover for something else--a shield for what they really want. In a way, it has a dual purpose: First, to see if they could get away with it. I mean, hey, might as well. Second, to create a straw man, meant to be knocked over. It's set up specifically for that purpose, to give Boehner, Cantor, and the GOP something to brag about--an excuse to take less. "We didn't get what we wanted, but they didn't get that tax increase!" It gives leadership a way to portray a loss as a victory. We'll see.

Update 2: The straw man: So, the Democrats demanded a tax increase in order to get lower spending cuts? Was that it? Classic. See how that works? Simply by demanding something absurd, something they knew they would never get, the Democrats gave Boehner an excuse to take less. And Boehner even offered the compromise. That might not be it, of course, but it has that look.

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posted by rdbrewer at 09:40 PM

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