The Wall Street Journal’s Patrick O’Connor and Peter Nicholas are out today with a detailed breakdown of how negotiations to avert the year-end fiscal cliff broke down this week.
The Journal’s account paints a picture of President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner being fairly close to a comprehensive deal last weekend. That’s when Boehner conceded for the first time on income tax rate increases and a lift on the debt ceiling, and Obama blinked on entitlements by being open to a tweak in Social Security CPI.But neither side was willing to blink further. The WSJ details one meeting early in the week:
Mr. Obama repeatedly lost patience with the speaker as negotiations faltered. In an Oval Office meeting last week, he told Mr. Boehner that if the sides didn’t reach agreement, he would use his inaugural address and his State of the Union speech to tell the country the Republicans were at fault.
At one point, according to notes taken by a participant, Mr. Boehner told the president, “I put $800 billion [in tax revenue] on the table. What do I get for that?”
“You get nothing,” the president said. “I get that for free.”
Politico’s Mike Allen provided more context to Obama’s quote — since Rep. Tom Cole and other Republicans had been open to rate increases, so Obama didn’t feel like he had to give up anything in return.
Boehner also became frustrated earlier in negotiations at the White House’s request to permanently lift the debt ceiling and demanded reform to Medicare and other programs.
“You’re asking me to accept Mitt Romney’s tax plan. Why would I do that?” Obama said.
But a comprehensive deal finally fell apart in a meeting Monday, spurring Boehner to move to “Plan B,” which he ultimately failed to bring to a vote. Obama insisted on $1.2 trillion in new tax revenue and would not commit to an additional $100 billion in spending cuts. Boehner held a meeting with other Republican leaders.
His lieutenants made clear they preferred Plan B to the one Mr. Boehner was trying to broker.
The speaker called the president with news the House would move ahead with the backup bill, which would preserve Bush-era rates for all income below $1 million. The president was incensed.
On Thursday, Boehner failed to earn enough broad Republican support to bring the bill for a vote. On Friday evening before flying to Hawaii, Obama said he was still optimistic about a comprehensive deal, but he urged Congress to pass at least a scaled-back deal that held off planned tax increases and some spending cuts while extending unemployment benefits.