The GOP Fiscal Cliff Counteroffer Is Brilliant—And It’s Actually A Really Good Sign

John Boehner

[credit provider=”AP”]

Republican House Speaker John Boehner offered the GOP’s first counter-proposal in the fiscal cliff negotiations Monday, sending a letter to the White House that demands both parties negotiate from a middle ground. The letter is actually a savvy tactical manoeuvre by Boehner, and underscores just how angered Republican leaders were by the White House’s initial offer on the fiscal cliff.

That plan, presented to House Republicans by the Obama administration last week, called for $1.6 trillion in increased revenues, and closely mirrors the president’s “Plan for Economic Growth and Deficit Reduction,” which was submitted in September 2011. 

In the letter Monday, Boehner blasts the Obama administration for failing to try to find common ground. Here’s the key line: 

“We cannot in good conscience agree to this approach, which is neither balanced nor realistic If we were to take your Administration’s proposal at face value, then we would counter with the House-passed Budget Resolution [Paul Ryan’s budget plan].” 

Instead, Boehner doesn’t counter with the Ryan budget, but proposes that the two parties use a neutral framework for negotiations: a plan outlined by former Clinton chief of staff Erskine Bowles during a November 2011 testimony before the supercommittee. That plan proposes increasing revenues by $800 billion by cutting loopholes and deductions for the wealthiest Americans, and cutting spending by a combined $1.2 trillion.

Notably, Boehner does not outline any specifics for how to achieve those revenue increases and spending cuts. Instead, he is saying that Republicans are unwilling to negotiate down from the White House plan, and proposing a new framework from which to begin negotiations. 

What’s key is that Boehner is trying to position himself as a compromiser, expressly disavowing the more conservative approach that his party took before the election. He makes a point that they’re not just countering with the Ryan budget, but rather a framework developed by a Democrat.

In the end, it is likely that the White House will agree to these terms, but demand additional increases in revenue by letting the Bush tax cuts expire for those earning more than $250,000. That’s a big concession for the GOP, but one that will arguably be more palatable if Republicans are allowed to dictate the terms of the talks.