For much of his first term, President Obama went about negotiating with congressional Republicans in all the wrong ways. He had a habit of starting in the middle, presenting GOP leaders with a sensible, moderate compromise, intended to garner bipartisan support. Republicans would counter with far more conservative counteroffer, leading to deals well to the right of where Obama (and his party) wanted to end up.
With a White House scheduled to host a bipartisan, bicameral discussion later this week, it appears the president is getting better at negotiating.
President Obama is taking a hard line with congressional Republicans heading into negotiations over the year-end fiscal cliff, making no opening concessions and calling for far more in new taxes than Republicans have so far been willing to consider.
Obama plans to open talks using his most recent budget proposal, which sought to raise taxes on corporations and the wealthy by $1.6 trillion over the next decade, White House press secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday. That's double the sum that House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) offered Obama during secret debt negotiations in 2011.
The $1.6 trillion figure suggests Obama expects higher rates on income above $250,000 -- a policy Republicans fiercely oppose, despite public support -- as well as additional new tax revenue from limiting itemized deductions, restoring the estate tax to 2009 levels, and related measures.
And what would the president offer in exchange for this new revenue? Obama's plan would also include $340 billion in savings from Medicare and Medicaid, count about $1 trillion in savings from ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and include the more than $1 trillion in spending cuts already approved as part of last year's debt-ceiling resolution.
Add that up and Obama would deliver a total of $4 trillion in debt reduction -- exactly the size of the "grand bargain" the president has had in mind from the outset.
Is there any chance at all of Republicans accepting such a deal? Of course not. But as opening bids go, at least Obama isn't starting talks at a point intended to make Republicans happy.
Postscript: Incidentally, the public isn't optimistic that a deal will be reached -- neither am I -- though the latest polling did point to an interesting tidbit.
If the U.S. government ends up careening off the "fiscal cliff," Republicans in Congress stand to shoulder most of the blame, according to a new poll released Tuesday. [...]
Fifty-three percent of Americans said Republicans in Congress would be more to blame in that instance, according to a Pew Research Center poll conducted in the days following the election. Twenty-nine percent said that Obama would be more to blame, while 10 percent said both the president and Republicans would share blame.
This may not sway Republicans much -- they'll probably say the poll is "skewed" -- but given that they'll be on the ballot again and the president won't, it should create just a little added incentive for GOP lawmakers to work towards an agreement.