President Obama’s negotiating stance is a lot firmer than many have given him credit for. Obama has been negotiating from total strength. At one point telling Boehner, ‘You get nothing.’
A behind the scenes Wall Street Journal report confirmed that President Obama has been one step ahead of his Republican opponents all through the fiscal cliff negotiations.
The Wall Street Journal reported (Via Political Wire) the following exchange between Obama and Boehner during the fiscal cliff negotiations,
“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, Boehner told the president, “I put $800 billion [in tax revenue] on the table. What do I get for that?”
Replied Obama: “You get nothing. I get that for free.”
Nobody will ever accuse the Rupert Murdoch owned Wall Street Journal of being an Obama apologist, so when they report that the president is taking a hard line with Boehner everyone should pay attention. It is looking more and more like the president anticipated that his third fiscal cliff proposal would be rejected.
What the White House could not have expected was the spectacular implosion of House Republican caucus on Thursday. After the Republican caucus made it clear that Speaker Boehner has zero power and authority over them, the president promptly pulled back his proposal and showed his ‘you get nothing’ hand by calling on congressional leaders to come back after Christmas and pass legislation that would extend tax cuts for the 98%.
While saying that he would still sign a deal, the only specific proposal that the president offered was tax cuts for the 98% and an extension of unemployment benefits. (This has been the Obama position from the beginning.)
Obama’s remarks and the Wall Street Journal story both paint a picture of a president who, while willing to make a deal, understands his position of strength. As the country inches off the fiscal cliff, the offers will likely get worse for Republicans. One gets the sense that the president knew that Republicans would never sign on to anything he proposed, so he stuck his third proposal out there as a reasonable offer that he knew would be rejected.
John Boehner can’t control his caucus, and it now clear that the president is two steps ahead of his opposition. The pressure is on the Republicans, and Obama is using every ounce of leverage he has.