Laughing Out Loud: Both Sides in the "Fiscal Cliff" Fight Are Basically Re-Proposing Their Budgets

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Nov. 30 2012 11:41 AM

Laughing Out Loud: Both Sides in the "Fiscal Cliff" Fight Are Basically Re-Proposing Their Budgets

Fred Barnes reported last night that the White House's offer on the fiscal cliff is so ridiculous, so unlike a compromise, that Mitch McConnell "laughed out loud" when he heard it. (The buried lead: Mitch McConnell has the capacity to laugh.) The backstory, via Ryan Grim, is that the White House has basically been offering this for two weeks.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

What's being offered? A one-year punt of the sequester, a permanent hike in the debt limit, $50 billion of stimulus in the form of unemployment insurance and mortgage modification, and another two-part tax plan. Grim again:

It would revert estate taxes to their higher 2009 level, and raise an additional $600 billion in taxes elsewhere, according to the GOP summary. It then proposes tax reform required to raise at least as much as the tax hikes, and entitlement reform that would trim $400 billion from the programs.

Indeed, that's not much of a compromise. It's what you might have expected this White House to propose, if you've looked at its 2012 budget. And would you believe it -- Republicans are in the very same position, using their 2012 legislation as the starting point for a negotiation.

"Republicans have taken action to avert the fiscal cliff to stop all the tax increases, to replace the sequester, and pave the way for tax reform and entitlement reform," said Boehner at yesterday's weekly briefing. "We're the only ones with a balanced plan to protect the economy, protect American jobs, and protect the middle class from the fiscal cliff."

The "balanced plan" is the Ryan budget, which can't pass the Senate. The sequester replacement takes all the savings from defense and applies them to social programs. It lost 16 Republican votes when it passed the House in May, so not only is it doomed in the Senate, it probably couldn't pass with the smaller House GOP majority taking office in six weeks.

This week was largely about posturing, so neither Boehner nor the White House is going to stick to these plans. What was notable about the Boehner argument was that no one took it seriously. I don't see any articles coming out of yesterday's press conference that bother to mention this "Ryan budget was our plan" theory.

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics


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