US House Speaker John Boehner and President Barack Obama are edging closer to an agreement that would avoid the automatic austerity measures known as the “fiscal cliff” that are due to take effect in the new year. However, with just 13 days left in 2013, friction on exact numbers remains—as does disgruntlement from House Republicans, with whom Boehner will meet today. Here are the key elements of Obama’s latest proposal:
Considering that Boehner has conceded on allowing tax hikes—though only on incomes higher than $1 million—and that Obama has given ground on chained CPI, negotiations are now largely about agreeing on numbers, and less focused on overall structure.
The obvious question remains whether Boehner can bring his fellow House Republicans to Jesus on the current framework under negotiation, to say nothing of the numbers under debate. The outlook on both is still hazy: First Read notes that Republicans feel the Dems are playing fast and loose with counting interest-payment savings toward overall entitlement cuts, and Politico reports that Republicans have highlighted a couple of other potential sticking points, notably Obama’s proposed stimulus measures.
Meanwhile, Politico is now reporting that Boehner will simultaneously bring a “Plan B” bill to the House floor that includes tax hikes on incomes exceeding $1 million, though the Speaker will continue negotiating with the White House. This show of Boehner’s backbone may be more designed to stave off threats to his role as speaker from within the party than it is a viable negotiating ploy.
On the left, however, some continue to wonder whether going over the fiscal cliff might not be preferable to accepting slashed Social Security benefits required by the chained CPI measure, which economist Dean Baker says will level a “substantial hit to a population that for the most part is ill-prepared to see a cut in its income,” particularly since the current iteration of the bargain lacks a revenue offset to the proposed cuts. Greg Sargent reports that the left is gearing up to press Harry Reid to put the kibosh on Social Security cuts. Still, Paul Krugman points out that those cuts are “not nearly as bad as raising the Medicare age,” given that they would actually “kill people.”
Despite enduring misgivings from both sides of the aisle, Obama’s and Boehner’s gradual convergence on both framework and numbers suggests a gathering momentum that even the House Republicans might struggle to obstruct.