This approach does not meet the test of balance, and the President would veto the legislation in the unlikely event of its passage.The president's position has been that middle-class tax cuts on income up to $250,000 should be extended, although on Monday he offered a concession to Republicans, saying he would accept extending tax cuts on the first $400,000 of income. Republicans rejected that offer, however, responding with Boehner's "Plan B" to set the threshold at $1 million.
Boehner first offered the $1 million proposal on Friday, so in countering with $400,000, the White House appeared to be saying that $1 million was too high a threshold, but that it was willing to negotiate on a threshold in order to get a deal on the fiscal cliff. But with Republicans rejecting that offer (which also included Social Security cuts), and the White House now rejecting "Plan B" the publicly-stated positions are far apart.
But publicly-stated positions are just words, and according to NBC's First Read, the two sides are much closer in private discussions. As they point out, that makes their public actions—particularly Boehner's weird "Plan B" gambit—very confusing.
There are three reasons why Plan B -- if it’s a serious effort -- seems so puzzling. One, as we wrote yesterday, the two sides are thisclose in getting a deal done. (Where the two sides are publicly is not where they were Monday night; they have both moved in each other’s direction further.) Two, if we go over the fiscal cliff (and time is running out, folks), Republicans might not realize the extent to which President Obama will own the bully pulpit in January. After all, there’s a certain inaugural address on Jan. 21, as well as the State of the Union. And three, are enough House Republicans really going to cast a tough vote -- raising taxes -- without getting any spending cuts or resolution on the sequester in return? And are they going to cast a vote for legislation that breaks a longstanding pledge on taxes that has zero chance of becoming law simply to give Boehner leverage? If Boehner and leadership do pull this off and convince their rank-and-file to vote on legislation that is designed just to give Boehner leverage, it would be quite the political feat. But for what end? Boehner already had one big piece of invisible leverage over the White House: a 2013 domestic agenda. The White House knows not getting a deal now, while politically more damaging for Republicans, probably means he’ll get very little down legislatively next year -- perhaps his ONLY year in a second term to focus on passing legislation.My gut instinct is that the simplest explanation is the best explanation, and using Occam's razor, I'd say that President Obama is extremely eager to get a deal done and to avoid the uncertainties of "falling off the cliff" and that Republicans, while worried about appearing to hold middle-class tax cuts hostage, are trying to extract as many concessions as they possibly can from the president before the "cliff deadline." If that's the case, then it was a huge mistake for the president to make the offer he did two weeks before the deadline, because as tough a pill as the offer would have been to swallow, at this point any negotiated agreement is only going to get worse.
7:54 AM PT: Boehner's office responds: