The spending cuts Boehner chooses not to see


House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) made a rare floor appearance this morning to demand answers from the White House as part of the ongoing fiscal talks: “Where are the President’s spending cuts?”

It’s disconcerting, in a way, that Boehner still doesn’t seem to understand the larger debate he’s currently engaged in, but so long as the Speaker is confused, let’s try to give him a hand.

First, if the Republican leader wants to know where President Obama’s spending cuts are, he can start with the more than $1 trillion in spending cuts Obama already accepted as part of the resolution to last year’s debt-ceiling crisis.

Second, Obama’s debt-reduction plan, like Obama’s most recent budget plan, already includes additional spending cuts, on top of the cuts the president agreed to in 2011.

And third – this is the part Boehner really doesn’t seem to understand – Obama has no incentive to negotiate with himself. The House Speaker is saying, in effect, “We’re demanding spending cuts, so Obama should propose some, and we’ll let him know when we’re satisfied.”

The White House has decided not to play this game and for good reason. If Boehner wants more spending cuts, he can propose more spending cuts. That’s how negotiations are supposed to work.

As we discussed last week, the New York Times reported that the president is “scarred by failed negotiations in his first term and emboldened by a clear if close election to a second, has emerged as a different kind of negotiator.” Throughout his first term, Obama “repeatedly offered what he considered compromises on stimulus spending, health care and deficit reduction to Republicans, who either rejected them as inadequate or pocketed them and insisted on more.”

Under the rules Boehner drew up last year, Republicans are supposed to tell the president, “Make us happy,” and Obama is supposed to keep offering conservative ideas in the hopes of guessing what they’ll find satisfactory.

The Speaker’s comments today seemed to be an attempt to bring the old rules back. The sooner GOP leaders realize the rules have changed, the easier it will be to find a resolution to the current impasse.

Fiscal Cliff and John Boehner

The spending cuts Boehner chooses not to see