So now, with his approval rating tumbling, President Obama suddenly wants to “engage with the Republicans,” or at least with selected Republican Senators, with the goal of striking a deal on budgetary/debt issues. How should Republicans react?
Anticipating this scenario, I have expressed my view. Most recently, in early February, I wrote:
[I]n the unlikely event that Obama shows a willingness to discuss entitlement reform in a serious way, Republicans should entertain a “grand bargain.” Otherwise, they should take the spending cuts that Obama graciously handed them, and save entitlement reform for the next time they can exert pressure on the White House.
I love cutting spending, whether through the sequester or otherwise. But we must recognize that the debt crisis cannot be solved without entitlement reform.
That’s why Republicans should be open to a grand bargain that modifies the sequester but deals seriously with entitlements. Such a bargain would also involve changes to the tax code that reduce the ability of those with high incomes to take advantage of certain deductions. Mitt Romney proposed such changes during the campaign and Speaker Boehner put them on the table during the “fiscal cliff” negotiations.
The catch, of course, resides in the reality that Obama almost certainly is not willing to discuss entitlement reform in a serious way. He never has been and, in all likelihood, he never will be. Cutting entitlements in a meaningful way is not the change this tranformative president has in mind.
But I see no harm in sounding him out on the subject. If nothing else, selected Republicans can watch Obama squirm a little bit.