At least officially, the White House's offer for some kind of grand debt-reduction deal is still on the table. To the chagrin of the left, President Obama is prepared to accept the "reforms" Republicans asked for in social-insurance programs, in exchange for concessions on tax revenue.
GOP lawmakers, true to form, continue to reject the idea of compromise, and to date, have not pointed to any concessions they're willing to even entertain. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) acknowledged yesterday what everyone already knew -- there will be no deal.
But of particular interest is the growing Republican opposition to the one thing they said they really wanted as part of a possible compromise.
Two House Republicans have told constituents they oppose proposed cuts to Social Security and veterans benefits by reducing the cost of living adjustment, according to letters they sent to constituents. President Barack Obama included the plan, known as chained CPI, in his annual budget, but specified that he was only offering it as a concession to entice Republicans into a compromise. For Reps. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) and Sean Duffy (R-Wis.), however, the concession is itself objectionable.
Note, we're not just talking about two random House Republicans. Immediately after Obama said he's willing to give GOP lawmakers what they asked for, When Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee who'll oversee his party's 2014 midterm efforts, accused President Obama of waging "a shocking attack on seniors."
Then Rep. Steve Southerland (R-Fla.) said he's "not a fan" of the policy. Rep. James Lankford (Okla.), the chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee, called chained CPI "draconian." Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) said of the policy, "It's not my plan... This is the president's plan." Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.), a House Ways and Means Committee member, added, "I'm very sensitive to the fact that you're impacting current seniors in particular. It's something I'm very hesitant to jump up and down and support."
Let's be clear about the chain of events:
1. Congressional Republicans demand that the White House put chained CPI on the table as part of budget talks.
2. President Obama reluctantly agrees to put chained CPI on the table as part of budget talks.
3. Congressional Republicans criticize the chained CPI policy they said they wanted.
To reiterate a point from a month ago, it's only fair to mention that plenty of congressional Republicans, including members of the GOP leadership, have welcomed Obama's offer -- while refusing to point to any comparable concessions they'd accept, of course -- so this isn't a party-wide phenomenon.
But we're well past the point of Greg Walden acting as a solo hack, condemning a policy he supports because he thinks it might boost the GOP in the 2014 midterms. There's a sizable contingent of congressional Republicans who have publicly criticized the exact same policy congressional Republicans said they wanted Obama to accept.
Shouldn't that affect the larger discussion rather dramatically?
Remember, the White House doesn't actually like chained-CPI. Obama freely admits he doesn't want this policy, and only offered it because Republicans are such enthusiastic supporters of the idea. From the president's perspective, he and his team are going to have to tolerate some measures they don't like if there's going to be a bipartisan compromise in which both sides accept concessions they would otherwise reject.
But that was before GOP lawmakers called this policy -- the one Republicans demanded -- a "shocking attack on seniors" and a "draconian" policy.
So, given all of this, can someone remind me what's stopping the president from simply walking away from the idea he doesn't like anyway? At this point, Obama could hardly be blamed for declaring, "I thought Republicans wanted this policy, but if they consider this a draconian attack on seniors that they cannot support, I'll gladly drop the idea and we discuss something else."