Saturday, July 23, 2011

Why the Obama-Boehner talks fell apart

Budget talks between President Obama and Speaker Boehner fell apart yesterday after the Speaker called the President and said he would instead negotiate directly with Senate Leaders Reid & McConnell.

The President spoke to the press within the hour to begin framing the collapse of the negotiations. He reinforced his theme that he was the reasonable, flexible party willing to compromise to get a deal.

I just got a call about a half hour ago from Speaker Boehner who indicated that he was going to be walking away from the negotiations …

… And so the question is, what can you say yes to? Now, if their only answer is what they’ve presented, … — if that’s their only answer, then it’s going to be pretty difficult for us to figure out where to go. Because the fact of the matter is that’s what the American people are looking for, is some compromise, some willingness to put partisanship aside, some willingness to ignore talk radio or ignore activists in our respective bases, and do the right thing.

And to their credit, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, the Democratic leadership, they sure did not like the plan that we are proposing to Boehner, but they were at least willing to engage in a conversation because they understood how important it is for us to actually solve this problem. And so far I have not seen the capacity of the House Republicans in particular to make those tough decisions.

The President positioned himself as the aggrieved party, trying to understand what went wrong:

It is hard to understand why Speaker Boehner would walk away from this kind of deal.

I actually think it’s quite easy. The President backtracked in private negotiations this week, demanding bigger tax increases after the Gang of Six, including three conservative Republican Senators, released a plan that raised taxes more than the President had previously demanded.

Today’s press stories treat this as a detail. It is instead the key to understanding why the talks fell apart.

Here are some primary source materials for reference:
Recent history of the negotiations

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