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The Grand Bargain Between Obama and Boehner: Which Side Loses Most?

 
 
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Brian Beutler talked to a congressional aide about how the so-called “Grand Bargain” is shaping up. Though details are still elusive, this sounds rather horrifying.

A Congressional aide briefed on ongoing negotiations between House Speaker John Boehner and President Obama says the two principals may be nearing a “grand bargain” on to raise the debt limit which would contain large, set-in-stone spending cuts but only the possibility of future revenue increases.

“All cuts,” the aide said. “Maybe revenues sometime in the future.”

 Fox News, whose “reporting” should always be taken with a grain of salt, also quoted a congressional aide who said the agreement would include $3 trillion in cuts with “no revenues.”

This sounds crazy. Given that there’s a Democratic Senate and a Democratic White House, and overwhelming polling data showing the public rejecting the Republican line, “crazy” doesn’t quite cut it.

But as the negotiations continue, I’m not even sure how such a package could pass. Sure, most Republicans would like it, but won’t the final deal need a whole lot of Democratic votes in both chambers?

Estimates vary, but there are roughly 60 House Republicans who won’t vote to raise the debt ceiling under any circumstances. That leaves 180 House Republicans needing at least 37 House Democrats to get to 217. If there 80 GOPers who refuse any deal, the bill would need 57 Dems. And so on.

No matter how much pressure comes from the White House, there probably aren’t enough center-right Democratic votes to carry a spending-cut-only package across the finish line. Indeed, the pressure should be pushing the deal towards the left — if the right-wing Suicide Squad isn’t open to reason, figure out a way to make more House Democrats happy.

And why isn’t that happening? Probably because (a) it would end John Boehner’s six-month tenure as Speaker of the House; and (b) Senate Republicans would filibuster a deal that House Dems liked.

Speaking of the Senate, where the majority Democratic caucus has 53 members, a deal that effectively gives Republicans everything is also a ridiculously heavy lift for the leadership. A handful of GOP members, led by Jim DeMint, will likely oppose any debt-ceiling increase regardless of circumstances. Let’s say that leaves Senate Republicans with 43 votes for a deal. Are there 17 Senate Democrats willing to support a “compromise” that includes $3 trillion in cuts with no revenues?

I can appreciate President Obama’s desire for a big deal. I can even appreciate the dilemma of trying to negotiate with a radicalized, criminally-reckless House majority. But the White House has to realize that the final agreement will need significant Democratic support, and asking several dozen congressional Dems to support a deal with $3 trillion in spending cuts and only the possibility of new revenue at some point in the future is almost certainly asking far too much.

For more on head-counts, check out pieces today from Greg Sargent and Jed Lewison.

 

Washington Monthly / By Steve Benen

Posted at July 21, 2011, 8:48am

 
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