John Boehner is not a happy man these days. He's bitter, and angry, and his leadership, if you can call it that, has been exposed as an abject failure. But when Harry Reid accused Boehner of scuttling the fiscal cliff deal last week in order to preserve his place as Speaker, it seems Speaker Boehner came unglued.
Via The Politico:
House Speaker John Boehner couldn’t hold back when he spotted Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in the White House lobby last Friday.
It was only a few days before the nation would go over the fiscal cliff, no bipartisan agreement was in sight, and Reid had just publicly accused Boehner of running a “dictatorship” in the House and caring more about holding onto his gavel than striking a deal.
“Go f— yourself,” Boehner sniped as he pointed his finger at Reid, according to multiple sources present.
Reid, a bit startled, replied: “What are you talking about?”
Boehner repeated: “Go f— yourself.”
Of course, Politico being Republico, they couldn't let that sit there without telling the story of how the White House treated Mr. Boehner so unfairly.
White House officials were furious with Boehner for what they viewed as him breaking off the grand bargain talks in mid-December — the second time in two years that he had abandoned Obama. And they were mystified by the speaker’s next move. He decided to go it alone on a “Plan B bill” that forced Republicans to raise taxes for the first time in a generation yet held little chance of becoming law because of Democratic opposition. Boehner’s aides say they were trying to instill urgency in the Senate.
The frustration was mutual. Boehner’s top policy aide, Brett Loper, yelled at White House economic adviser Gene Sperling for not offering Republicans any plans to avert the fiscal cliff. When Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner delivered an offer to Republicans that they found laughable, GOP aides quickly leaked all the details to the press.
Boehner and his top aides did not feel that Obama was negotiating in good faith. At several points, when they thought they were starting to make progress, they accused the president of “shifting the goalposts.”
Gee, and all this time I figured it was Boehner who wasn't negotiating in good faith. I'm sticking with that assessment, since it wasn't the White House that walked away from the negotiating table, but Boehner. Yet again.
There's more in the article about divisions on both sides. Harry Reid felt that letting everything expire and then dealing with the rates was a better strategy (as did I) than trying to negotiate ahead of the December 31st deadline. The White House, on the other hand, was concerned about uncertainty slowing the economy, and I can actually see that logic to an extent. After all, Republicans prove over and over again that if they think they have time to stall, they will. I'm not sure a 1000 point drop in the markets would bother them much. They'd probably just use it as an opportunity to grab some bargains for their billionaires.
It seems that things grew tense between Reid and Obama, too:
Reid figured Democrats could get a more favorable agreement if they waited. When Reid saw an offer that Obama had made to McConnell on Sunday, which included provisions opposed by Senate Democrats, the majority leader crumpled up the document and tossed it into the burning fireplace of his Capitol office.
But Obama decided not to walk away from negotiations, despite earlier claims by his aides that he would be willing to go over the cliff. Biden emerged as a key voice in encouraging the president to stay on track with a deal.
The president did not believe the dynamic would suddenly shift in his favor after Jan. 1, rejecting the conventional wisdom in Washington that all sides would have more flexibility after higher tax rates took effect. Republicans were no more likely to compromise after the deadline than before it, the White House concluded. And there was a very real fear that a resolution wouldn’t come for weeks, perhaps not before the country hit the debt limit in late February — a nightmare scenario that the president believed would destroy not only his leverage but also the still-fragile economy.
Yes, and the debt limit is the key here. This deal is a good deal if, and only if, the President stays firm on the debt ceiling vote and forces a clean vote with absolutely no negotiating. None. Zero. If he doesn't stand firm on the debt ceiling, then there will be no reason to trust any negotiations with regard to the budget or the social safety net.
Here's something I wish would end forever: This idea that there has to be some degree of "pain" inflicted in order to consider something a great deal. Taking Social Security as an example, the way to make sure it is solvent in years to come is to raise the cap to the pension benefit cap in effect right now, which is at $255,000 for 2013. That would resolve funding issues, and would even give them room to lower the percentage of payroll taxes without inflicting "pain". It is a far superior solution to the idiotic "chained CPI" idea, it is equitable because it tracks with the maximum compensation considered for private pension benefits so that the universality of the program is maintained, and it extends the life of Social Security into the future without inflicting "pain" on those least able to bear it.
Instead we get these screechy Democrats AND Republicans who claim "entitlements" have to be cut, cut, cut in order to "get our fiscal house in order." As far as I'm concerned, they can burn the fiscal house down, quit clinging to polemics and actually get something creative done.
Is the national debt really the huge, gigantic issue they say it is? Well, only for as long as a Democrat inhabits the Oval Office. As soon as a Republican is in there, it's really perfectly fine to spend and spend as long as it's on their pet projects and not everyday people.
In the President's appearance Tuesday evening, he said that he hoped for a little less drama in the days to come. I think he should expect the drama to be more intense, more contentious, and assume in advance there is no such thing as a good-faith negotiation. Even Tuesday after the Biden-McConnell deal passed with an overwhelming Senate majority, Boehner was content to blow it up in order to pacify Eric Cantor and Kevin McCarthy, who voted against it after trying and failing to find 218 votes for an amendment to include spending cuts. Yes, Boehner would have been fine with blowing out the entire negotiation which was passed with a huge majority in the Senate in order to satisfy the TeaBirchers who had just stabbed him in the back in full view of his entire caucus.
In the days to come, it will be interesting to see if John Boehner keeps that uneasy crown. I suspect either Cantor or McCarthy might make a power play on Thursday afternoon. Or, they can leave him to take all of the hits for Republicans' failure to serve the public who put them in office.
There's one sure thing, though. The drama isn't going to stop until 2014 midterms, where I really hope we all turn out to spank these cynical jerks and send them home.