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Hullabaloo


Monday, March 28, 2011

 
Big Deals

by digby

Here's a shocker:

The White House and Democratic lawmakers, with less than two weeks left to avoid a government shutdown, are assembling a proposal for roughly $20 billion in additional spending cuts that could soon be offered to Republicans, according to people close to the budget talks.

That would come on top of $10 billion in cuts that Congress has already enacted and would represent a deeper reduction than the Obama administration and Senate Democrats had offered previously in negotiations. But it isn’t clear thathttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif would be enough to satisfy Republicans, who initially sought $61 billion in spending cuts and face pressure from tea-party activists not to compromise.


We talked about this back when the White House thought they could dazzle the Republicans with slick arguments over semantics:

the White House argues the president has already essentially agreed to $44.8 billion in spending cuts from his original proposal. Add the current $6.5 billion in new cuts proposed today and voila! – roughly half of $100 billion.

Republicans argue that President Obama’s original budget is a nonsensical baseline from which to begin since it was never enacted.

What you have to do, Republicans say, is start from the current level of spending as represented in the original Continuing Resolution.

This is why, House Republicans say, they only claimed to have cut spending by $61 billion, not $100 billion. They say to do otherwise is taking credit for $44 billion in cuts the White House never actually agreed to in any serious negotiation.

“I understand that maybe some people who originally decided to use that math may not want to use that anymore,” Pfeiffer said today. “There are innumerable quotes, many of them in stories in papers that you guys did on that day,…with Republican leadership saying that they cut $100 billion on that day. By that measure we have come half way.”

“Their thing hasn’t passed into law either, right?” said Sperling “This is the president of the United States has put forward a request that’s his ideal budget that he put forward. They put forward their ideal proposal. Something they could pass in the House, but and that’s – there’s a $102.3 billion difference there. I don’t know why when you’re covering any type of negotiation that it’s not highly relevant to know where the president’s proposal was, where their proposal was, and then, and then if there’s movement – to what degree is that splitting the difference or moving towards one side or the other. So I think it’s a totally legitimate important thing covering the negotiation.”

Pfeiffer added that “what is clear is that we are at the beginning of the process discussing this. They are not going to get everything they want. We’re not going to get everything we want. And we’re going to discuss how we’re going to get there. Much like the tax cut deal.”


And then:


As of several days ago, this math might have worked with the GOP. But as negotiations have entered a new stage, so to has the context. Republicans now insist negotiations instead should be based off current spending levels, not those in Obama's 2011 budget proposal. With that as a baseline, their CR offers roughly $60 billion in cuts. The president, in turn, offers just $10 billion (the $4 billion passed already plus the $6 billion suggested on Thursday).

"I understand that people maybe want to change the math, now," said Pfeiffer, arguing that it would be irresponsible for the media to base the current proposals off anything other than FY 2011 suggestions. "What is clear is no matter what math they use, Republicans won't get everything they want and Democrats won't get everything they want."



So now they've come back with another 20 billion in cuts. As I wrote at the time:

I think that tax cut "deal" may have made the administration stupid.

The GOP objective isn't to "get a compromise" or "split the difference" so everyone in the Village will drool all over them because they are so awesomely bipartisan. It's to get what they want. They really, really, really wanted those tax cuts for the wealthy and they got them. Now they really, really, really want spending cuts.

Arguing over semantics or even arithmetic with these people is to fundamentally misunderstand how they operate.


And if the rest of my prediction comes true, they have probably made a phony "deal" not to cut off Planned Parenthood or completely defund NPR in exchange for all these tax cuts. That's been foreshadowed as well:


One thing Republicans might not get are the host of riders that attached to their continuing resolution, including language that would cut off, among other things, funds for Planned Parenthood.
http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif
"We think the focus should be on how to cut spending in a way that is smart for the economy," said Sperling, "and that no one should get that core mission derailed by focusing on any political or ideological [cause]."


If this keeps going on this trajectory, when all is said and done you are probably going to be asked to clap very loudly for a deal that is essentially draconian cuts in government at the worst possible time in exchange for not cutting some programs you like. That's what constitutes a "victory" for a Democratic president and Senate these days. The good news is that Gloria Borger and Andrea Mitchell will say it's a brilliant example of bipartisan compromise and the president's approval ratings will undoubtedly improve for at least two weeks. So that's something.

Update: Dday adds even more context:


There’s no question that Republicans played the “Bad Cop, Insane Cop” game very expertly. But it was apparent from the moment that Democrats allowed the 2011 budget to be decided on the watch of the new Republican House that there would be a massive reduction like this. They failed to finish a 2011 budget resolution as part of the deal for extending the Bush tax cuts for two years. They failed to incorporate an increase in the debt limit into that as well. As a result, they forced themselves to negotiate with a bad hand. And they’re not the best negotiators in the first place.





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