Is Boehner Actually Playing Obama On The Fiscal Cliff? Maybe…

Conservatives are understandably upset that John Boehner seems to be putting more and more on the table in an attempt to get a deal out of Obama who, so far at least, seems to be offering nothing but a “Thanks, sucker” in return.

Speaker John Boehner has proposed allowing tax rates to rise for the wealthiest Americans if President Barack Obama agrees to major entitlement cuts, according to several sources close to the talks.

It is the first time Boehner has offered any boost in marginal tax rates for any income group, and it would represent a major concession for the Ohio Republican. Boehner suggested hiking the Bush-era tax rates for top wage earners, including those with annual incomes of $1 million or more annually, beginning Jan. 1, two sources said.

…Obama and Boehner spoke by phone Friday after a lengthy face-to-face session at the White House on Thursday. The quickening pace of private conversations between the two key players in the fiscal-cliff talks shows progress is being made in the negotiations, although they are not close to a deal yet, sources said.

Boehner also wants to use a new method of calculating benefits for entitlement programs known as “chained CPI,” which would slow the growth of Medicare and other federal health programs and save hundreds of billions over the next decade.

House Speaker John A. Boehner has offered to push any fight over the federal debt limit off for a year, a concession that would deprive Republicans of leverage in the budget battle but is breathing new life into stalled talks over the year-end “fiscal cliff.”

The offer came Friday, according to people in both parties familiar with the talks, as part of the latest effort by Boehner (R-Ohio) to strike a deal with President Obama to replace more than $500 billion in painful deficit-reduction measures set to take effect in January.

Is Boehner folding like a sheet?

Sure, it’s entirely possible.

He could also be genuinely trying to offer Obama enough of an incentive to put some real cuts and serious entitlement reform on the table.

However, there’s also a third possibility: Boehner may have concluded that Obama is content to go over the fiscal cliff and so he may be putting a lot on the table in an effort to appear reasonable to the public. That way, if the whole thing blows up, he can say, “I offered to raise taxes and move the debt limit fight off for another year. I just regret that Barack Obama has been so stubbornly unwilling to work with us on our fair and bipartisan offer.”

PS: As to making a tax increases for cuts deal, the crucial thing for Republicans to remember is that no deal is better than a bad deal. If the GOP can’t get a package they feel comfortable defending to their constituents, they do have another option. They can pass a middle class tax cut (with perhaps some other minor goodies attached) and a bill with all the Bush tax cuts. The middle class tax cut extension would then pass the Senate, while the bill with all the Bush tax cuts would fail. That would lead to a tax increase on Americans who make more than $250,000, but without Republicans voting for it. Then essentially, it would be time for round 2 when we hit the debt limit in February, but the GOP would have a lot more leverage. That wouldn’t be a perfect outcome, but since Obama gets most of what he wants just by doing nothing, it may be the best they can do in a situation where there is no winning hand.

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