What Obama and Boehner Aren't Saying to Each Other Right Now

The Atlantic
What Obama and Boehner Aren't Saying to Each Other Right Now

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What Obama and Boehner Aren't Saying to Each Other Right Now

Angry phone calls. Dismissive press conferences. Negotiations without details. Nobody said this fiscal-cliff thing would be easy, but can't everyone get along? Isn't the president having his other rival over to the White House right about now?

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House Speaker John Boehner said in a press conference Thursday that he wasn't sure President Obama was serious in his negotiations over the fiscal cliff. No progress has been made in two weeks, he said, and Obama hasn't offered specifics on which spending cuts he would accept. That is reportedly on purpose. "Republicans want the president to own the whole offer upfront, on both the entitlement and the revenue side, and that’s not going to happen because the president is not going to negotiate with himself," a Democratic official told Politico. The anonymous official continued:

"There’s a standoff, and the staff hasn’t gotten anywhere. Rob Nabors [the White House negotiator], has been saying: ‘This is what we want on revenues on the down payment. What’s you guys’ ask on the entitlement side?’ And they keep looking back at us and saying: ‘We want you to come up with that and pitch us.’ That’s not going to happen."

In his press conference, Boehner appeared to verify that analysis when he said he didn't want to give specifics on the size of cuts he wanted, and when asked what he wanted cut, he said the White House could look at the budget the House has passed. Boehner also said, "Revenue is only on the table if there are serious spending cuts that are part of this agreement." But if we go over the cliff, Obama even more revenue than he's asking for. 

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It makes sense that Obama isn't trying to make friends like he did in 2011. Obama and Boehner had another phone call Wednesday about the fiscal cliff. But there is dispute over the tone of the call. Politico reports it was "curt." CNN reports it was 20 minutes long and "hardly short or curt," according to an anonymous phone call analyst close to the phone call in question. In his press conference, Boehner called it "very nice." He did not call it productive. The strength of Obama's negotiating hand compared to the 2011 debt limit fight is pretty clear. Back then, he told House Republicans, "Don't call my bluff." But back then, it's Obama who feared what would happen if there was no deal — default on the national debt. This time, no deal favors Democrats.

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