Obama to Boehner: No Backsies

Moneybox
A blog about business and economics.
Dec. 22 2012 11:12 AM

Obama to Boehner: No Backsies

Patrick O'Connor and Peter Nichols have one of the first good fiscal cliff tick tocks out in today's Wall Street Journal. The key theme is this. Back in 2011 when faced with the debt ceiling, the White House made John Boehner an offer. Boehner rejected the offer. Then Obama got re-elected and Democrats gained seats in the House of Representatives and Democrats gained seats in the Senate and we arrived at a point where taxes are scheduled to go up by default. Boehner's response was to ask for the deal he'd previously rejected:

During one session in the Capitol with White House's legislative liaison Rob Nabors, Mr. Loper from the Boehner camp asked, referring to a near-deal during last year's debt-ceiling fight: "Can you get back into the zone of where you were in July 2011?"
"No," Mr. Nabors replied. "We were probably overextended then, and there's no way we would do it now." [...]
Mr. Boehner said he wanted a deal along the lines of what the two men had negotiated in the summer of 2011 in a fight over raising the debt ceiling. "You missed your opportunity on that," the president told him.
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Nabors actually raises a fascinating counterfacual here. Had Boehner said yes to Obama's 2011 offer, would it have passed? Obviously Boehner rejected it in part because there was tons of opposition to it in his caucus. But the administration really was arguably overextended in terms of what House Democrats would deliver meaningful votes for. Even folks like Jonathan Chait who generally back Obama's tactical approach thought that deal offer was a bridge too far.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

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