Speaker Boehner has left the building…again!
In a stunning reversal, amidst rumors that a deal was eminent, House Speaker John Boehner announced that he was pulling out of negotiations with the White House. He said that, contrary to rumors, a deal was never eminent, that the White House had “moved the goalposts” and that he would turn his efforts toward crafting an agreement with his colleagues in the House and Senate. He re-iterated the Republican talking points that any deal to raise the debt ceiling would not include an increase in taxes.
Yesterday rumors swirled around Washington that a major deal was in the works. The deal supposedly included major concessions by the White House on entitlements. It also was rumored to include concession by Republicans on revenue. Nobody knew for sure because talks had been conducted behind White House closed doors. Lawmakers on both sides were furious; angered at being kept in the dark and fearful that their side had given too much to get too little in return.
The President was awaiting word as to whether Boehner had been able to receive the blessing of his caucus. When the call didn’t come the White house contacted the Speaker’s office. Promised a return call the White House waited. After waiting 24 hours for a return call the White House called again at 3:30 yesterday afternoon. They were told that the Speaker would not take the call, but he would call the President at 5:30. Speaker Boehner called the President at the appointed time and informed him that he was pulling out of negotiations.
A visibly frustrated President conducted a press conference not 30 minutes after receiving Boehner’s call. He laid the blame for the lack of a deal squarely at the feet of the Republicans. He said that while he was willing to take the heat from his own party in making tough choices Boehner and Cantor were not. “I’ve been left standing at the altar a couple of times now” he said. He laid out the details of the proposed deal that included $1.6 trillion in spending cuts and $1.2 trillion in revenue increases without changing the tax rates. For 35 minutes he took his case to the American people; chastising Republicans for being more concerned with opinion polls, radio talk show hosts and pledges than they were with “working stiffs who just can’t seem to get ahead.” He also took his shots at Boehner. Referring to the difficulties Boehner was having with members of his own caucus the President said “At some point, I think if you want to be a leader...then you've got to lead." Asked what he would say to assuage the concerns of the financial markets, he said: “I am confident that we will raise the debt ceiling. Default is not an option. But I think we can do more.”
There are those who believe that from day one this has all been Kabuki Theater on the part of the President. That all the President ever wanted was a clean increase in the debt ceiling without any spending cuts or tax increases attached. They believe that the President proposed the cuts in entitlements in exchange for tax increases because he knew that Boehner could never get his Grover Norquis pledge signing Tea Party members to agree. He knew that they would hide behind their stubborn ideology and leave him there standing at the altar…the only reasonable adult in the room. If that is the case, if this has all be an elaborate production, then he has certainly played his part well.
The President has ordered the House and Senate leadership back to the White House today where “they will tell me how THEY propose to fix this problem.”
Get your popcorn ready. It’s going to be a show.