President Obama has just completed his highly partisan remarks on fiscal cliff negotiations to a highly partisan crowd at the White House. If Obama actually wants a deal, he should hope that no Republican legislators were watching. And one can now better understand why Speaker Boehner became so frustrated after dealing on a sustained basis with this arrogant man.
Stripping away Obama’s self-serving cheap shots at Congress — which some Republican members may find difficult to do — Obama basically told us that spending cuts are going to have to be “balanced.” And he made it clear that by this he means, in part, that spending cuts will have to balanced by additional revenue increases beyond those achieved by the increases in tax rates for the wealthy that will be part of the impending deal (assuming it is consummated).
Obama’s remarks were designed, of course, to satisfy Democratic Senators who will be unhappy with the McConnell-Biden compromise. Apparently, lefty Senators such as Harkin and Franken have already made their displeasure known. Presumably, this prompted Obama’s remarks.
But Republicans are part of the equation too. And by signaling the hard line he will take when it comes to spending cuts, Obama should have demonstrated to Republicans the importance of keeping the sequestration alive and not long deferred, if deferred at all.
For Obama to tie spending cuts to more efforts to soak the rich — he mentioned attacking certain deductions — appears to be an act of bad faith. As far as has been reported, this was not part of the negotiations Obama conducted with Boehner. The two discussed reducing tax deductions on the rich as an alternative to increasing tax rates, not as a supplement to higher tax rates and a condition for spending cuts. So we may be looking at a classic case of bait-and-switch.
Fortunately, spending cuts that are independent of any tax increases beyond those in the “cliff” are scheduled to become effective in a few hours. On these, Obama holds the weaker hand. Republicans must not allow him to throw that hand in as part of any bargain.
One can imagine Joe Biden assuring Mitch McConnell and other Republicans that Obama’s remarks were for the consumption of Harkin, Franken, etc. and that he won’t really take such a hard line on spending cuts down the road. Republicans who have been paying attention during the past four years will know better. Indeed, a Martian who landed just in time to observe the relish and arrogance with which Obama delivered his remarks would know better.