I’m more than a little bit stunned to see the Speaker of the House say that the President welshed on a deal and that dealing with him is like dealing with Jell-O. Yet from the accounts we have those comments seem justified. Barack Obama agreed to $800 billion in additional revenues, from eliminating tax preferences and perhaps cutting tax rates, as a ceiling, and then insisted on $400 billion more, in tax rate increases. No wonder John Boehner cut the negotiations off. The House Republicans have been called instranigent for rejecting tax increases and for passing the so-called Cut, Cap and Balance bill which, as the thoughtful Charles Lane pointed out on Fox News, will never be signed by the president. But why then isn’t the president being called intransigent for insisting on tax rates increases that will never be voted by the House? And for calling for those tax increases after saying that he wouldn’t?
Speaker Boehner showed something like contempt for President Obama when he said that he would continue to negotiate with other congressional leaders of both parties. The implication: they are or at least can be serious negotiating partners, Obama is not. But if the congressional leaders agree and pass legislation that raises the debt limit, doesn’t the President have to sign it? Even if it doesn’t meet his one remaining demand, that it get him through the 2012 presidential election.
What I think I saw early Friday evening was a President who saw his project of expanding America’s welfare state to European proportions meeting serious reverses. And a Speaker has determinedly sought to fulfill the mandate that voters gave his party and his chamber in November 2010 and who has taken command of the negotiations.