Gee, I was pretty sure we'd seen all this Boehner bad behavior before. And we had. This is not the first time John Boehner, in negotiations with the president, has backed out at the last minute and tried to blame everything on his negotiating partner. Nope. As Jonathan Chait reminds us, it's what Boehner did in 2011. In a column that focuses on the most recent dopery of Erskine Bowles, Chait gets to the heart of Boehner's problem even as Obama has shown himself to be as flexible as possible.
... The stated offers from Obama and Boehner are close enough that a failure to go the last inch is mystifying. But what’s the likely explanation here? Is it that Obama got really close to Boehner’s offer, pointedly said that he has not made his final offer and room remains to negotiate, but Boehner just mysteriously decided to drop out of the negotiations and hold a message vote? Or is it that Boehner figured out that he doesn’t have the votes even for his latest offer?
The answer, of course, is the latter. Not only is that a far more logical interpretation of Boehner’s behavior, it’s also the exact same thing that happened in 2011, when Boehner got swept up in the negotiations, cut a deal with Obama, and then surveyed his caucus and discovered it wouldn’t pass the House and he’d probably be deposed. ...Jonathan Chait, Daily Intel
I think Erskine Bowles (who is, as Chait reminds us, playing the role of a superior "deficit scold") is irrelevant by now. If Boehner doesn't get it together, he may wind up in the irrelevant column, too. Washington is an insular place, full of people who congratulate themselves daily at their perspicacity. Every now and then there's national election and the people of Politics Central are reminded that they can be pretty dumb in their assumptions.
Now, a whole 6 weeks after one of those elections, they've begun to lull themselves back into thinking the DC village people know best.
Fortunately, the President doesn't go along with that godawful DC provinciality. He is well aware of who swept him back into office in a feat not seen since the days of FDR --- also a president who kept getting reelected in spite of self-deluding enemies, who belonged to the same party that not only has respect for the social safety net but who actually created it. Tear the safety net apart to satisfy Charles and David Koch, think-tank owners and "the Tea Party's wallet"? Uh, no.
In a swift reaction, Democrats have pretty much stymied Boehner's latest move from the negotiating table.
The Senate Democratic leadership has tentatively decided not to hold any vote at all on John Boehner’s “plan B” fiscal alternative if it passes the House today, a senior Senate Democratic aide confirms to me, underscoring the futility for Republicans of holding the vote on Boehner’s plan in the first place.
“We’re in a strong position,” the aide told me, referencing the fact that the Senate has already passed, and sent to the House, a bill that would extend the tax cuts on income up to $250,000. “We’re going to simply say, `They are sitting on our fallback plan.’ We have the strongest possible hand, because we have a Senate-passed bill at $250,000.”
While the aide cautioned that plans could change, he stressed that top Democrats had concluded in the last 24 hours that there’s no percentage in holding a vote on the Boehner bill, which would lock in the Bush-era tax rates for all income up to $1 million.
This could have the effect of undermining support for Boehner’s bill among House conservatives. ...Greg Sargent, WaPo
Still trying to get through the how's and why's of all this? This explanation of the Dems' political maneuver should help:
The GOP strategy is to pass the “plan B” bill to inoculate Republicans against public blame if we go over the cliff, by allowing them to claim they were willing to raise tax rates on millionaires. But remember, under Boehner’s plan, even those who make over $1 million get a tax cut relative to Obama’s plan, because under the Boehner proposal they will be enjoying lower tax rates on all income up to $1 million. So if we do go over the cliff, Dems can continue to argue that Republicans allowed us to go over the cliff — leading to the expiration of unemployment benefits and a drop in Medicare payments — to protect the wealth of top earners. With polls showing the public is poised to blame Republicans for the failure to reach a deal, there’s no reason for Dems to validate Boehner’s plan, which would give him a bit more leverage in the push for a final compromise. ...Greg Sargent, WaPo