John Boehner is doing his best to accomplish the impossible in negotiating with President Obama over a budget fix to save us all from the Fiscal Cliff. He is also doing the world’s most thankless task.
There is no deal that will be truly acceptable to his House Republican colleagues. He may, by twisting arms for all he’s worth, eke out enough votes; or he may not.
If he does, Democrats will be silently grateful to have Republican fingerprints on the economic disaster that will likely result. Republicans will spit when they speak his name.
Yes, he may be able to get Obama to lower his “tax-the-rich” rate from 39.6% down to 38.8%. And that will be the “Grand Bi-partisan Bargain.” He may even get the Democrats to include a increase in the Medicare eligibility age (which the Democrats will explain was forced on them by Republican extortion).
As Don Barzani once said, “And there will be the peace.”
Boehner, for all his good intentions, is playing a sucker’s game. Deal, Obama wins. No deal, Republicans lose.
As a long-time labor negotiator, I can tell Boehner that there is only one way out of his fix: the door. Walk out the door and into a press conference.
Having demonstrated a yeoman’s effort to meet Obama part way, Boehner should declare the negotiations hopelessly deadlocked. He should explain publicly that the president has refused all serious proposals to rein in federal spending. Further meetings would be pointless.
He should then invite the president to send the House and Senate a bill containing everything he wants. Whatever tax rates and spending cuts he proposes. Boehner should then commit to an immediate up-or-down vote, in which he personally will vote “aye”, and will exert all possible pressure to get every Republican to do likewise, or at least to vote “present”.
If Obama really wants a deal, he will then have to negotiate with himself. In any event, the outcome is likely to be little worse for the economy than any deal he would give Boehner.
It is a gambit. Republicans may not be smart enough to play it. But it is the only way to make Democrats take ownership of what they are doing to the economy.
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