Brinksmanship is the order of the day on Capitol Hill, where Democratic and Republican lawmakers are retreating to a familiar position: stalemate. If anything, the latest interviews with lawmakers show they're digging their political trenches even deeper. Republicans are expressing frustration and dismay after the president put forth a budget plan calling for $1.6 trillion in higher tax revenue—a figure that's four times the value of proposed spending cuts.
Today, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) suggested he's already met the president halfway, taking a "great risk" in offering new revenue as part of a post-election deal. In return, the White House took weeks to craft an offer he says is "not serious". When asked where the negotiations stand, the Speaker said "we're almost nowhere."
Intraparty divisions have also emerged. The Democratic rank-and-file, like their Republican colleagues, have not coalesced behind any one position. Entitlement reform remains a major sticking point for Democrats even though Obama offered to balance his proposal with $400 billion in entitlement cuts (details to come). Democrats seemed open to the idea—up to a point.
"When the president talks about looking at other places inside of Medicare to cut ... I think it's reasonable to look," said Rep.-Elect Carol Shea Porter (D-NH) on Friday's The Daily Rundown. "Let's take a look at some of the payments, let's be more efficient. Let's go and do more oversight for waste, fraud and inefficiency."
Like Republicans' offer to close loopholes to raise tax revenue, Democrats' offer to cut waste in lieu of broader entitlement cuts falls far short of what the other side seeking. But at the same time, Republicans are adamant that raising tax revenues will undo the economic recovery. "The proposal by the president is going to hit one million small business owners," according to Rep. Diane Black (R-TN) who joined guest host Chris Cillizza on Friday's show. It's "very important that we make sure that we protect the middle class and this is not the way to do that."
President Obama agreed that letting tax rates rise would be like giving millions of Americans a "lump of coal" for Christmas, but said the solution is for Republicans to extend tax cuts for middle class families, while abandoning tax cuts for the wealthy. With the stakes so high, it might seem logical that both sides would budge from their original positions. They haven't. Sound familiar?