Too little revenue? Too much? Boehner looks for the Goldilocks Zone

Updated
House Speaker John Boehner caught in the middle of fiscal cliff negotiations.
House Speaker John Boehner caught in the middle of fiscal cliff negotiations.
Alex Wong/Getty Images; Lauren Victoria Burke/AP Photo

At a press briefing Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney rejected John Boehner’s opening fiscal cliff proposal out-of-hand, calling it “magic beans and fairy dust.”

Carney held the line on President Obama’s opening bid, which calls for $1.6 trillion in deficit reduction, generated in large part from increasing income tax rates on the wealthiest 2 percent–something the Republicans refused to consider in their counter-offer.

When a reporter asked Carney why the White House won’t respond to the Republicans with their own counter-offer, he said:

“[Boehner] put a couple sentences–that’s not a plan to say that we’re going to magically increase revenues through loophole closures and deduction caps with not a single element of specificity. So we don’t know who pays, we don’t know what we’re talking about in terms of actual legislation to increase revenues. It’s magic beans and fairy dust. The president has put forward specific proposals. Look, I acknowledge that not with any great specificity, there’s a little more meat on the bones in terms of their proposals on the spending cut side. When it comes to revenues, it doesn’t meet the test of balance or the necessary test of specificity.”


“He at least put $800 billion in revenues, which Republican’s haven’t wanted to do,” responded the reporter. “[Boehner]’s for revenues. That’s movement by Republicans.”

It is movement. Boehner was careful to point out in his letter to President Obama Monday that the GOP offer was based on Erskine Bowles suggestions to the Joint Select Committee on debt reduction earlier this year, suggestions which tried to draw a middle ground between the two sides. Though Bowles has distanced himself from the proposal, the Republican’s opening offer of $800 billion in revenues does indicate that the Boehner and the GOP understands, as Bowles himself said Tuesday, that “circumstances have changed.”

But a conversation without rates is a conversation the president doesn’t seem willing to have, judging by Carney’s comments: “The acknowledgment from many Republicans, including the Speaker of the House, that revenues from the wealthy have to be part of this [deal] is progress, but it is not enough progress to achieve a deal,” he said. “The president’s been very clear that rates have to go up.”

While Boehner’s opening bid offers too little for Obama, a number of right-wing Republicans are already saying that it offers too much.

“Speaker Boehner’s $800 billion tax hike will destroy American jobs and allow politicians in Washington to spend even more, while not reducing our $16 trillion debt by a single penny,” Republican Sen. Jim DeMint said Tuesday in a statement.

By placing an $800 billion tax hike on the table, Republican Leaders are engaging in little more than pre-emptive capitulation,” Heritage Action, a conservative policy advocacy organization, wrote Monday. ”The latest Republican proposal to President Obama is nothing but bad policy and a highly questionable negotiating tactic.”

And while the Speaker tries to find the Goldilocks zone between President Obama and his long-disruptive Tea Party caucus, he’s burdened by the fact that Americans will blame congressional Republicans by a margin of 2 to 1 over the White House–according to a new Pew Research Center and Washington Post poll–if the country does go over “the cliff.”

Too little revenue? Too much? Boehner looks for the Goldilocks Zone

Updated