By David Nather
November 29, 2012
Republican leaders have always said they’ll demand entitlement savings — especially in Medicare and Medicaid — if they have to give ground on revenues in a fiscal cliff deal.
Right now, they’re saying it really loudly.
Republican leaders, from House Speaker John Boehner to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, delivered a messaging bombardment Wednesday on that same theme: Democrats have to get serious about reining in health care entitlement spending before the two parties can reach a real deficit reduction agreement.
That’s not necessarily a sign that there won’t be a deal. Anyone who has spent time on Capitol Hill knows there are cycles in serious dealmaking — and one part of the cycle is that the two sides scream about how terrible the other side is, how they just can’t give another inch. That’s all part of preparing their supporters for the concessions that are about to come. When everyone goes quiet, that’s when the serious talks have begun.
If this is one of those times, though, it was clear Wednesday that the Republicans haven’t finished with the supporter preparation phase.
At a press conference this morning, Boehner declared, “Republicans are willing to put revenue on the table, but it’s time for the president and Democrats to get serious about the spending problem that our country has.”
Cantor said, “We have done our part. We have put revenues on the table … But we have not seen any good faith effort on the part of this administration to talk about the real problem that we're trying to fix.” He said even President Barack Obama’s advisers acknowledge that “Medicare and Medicaid are the main drivers of our deficit.”
McConnell did his part. “We’re not in this mess because Washington taxes too little, we’re in this mess because Washington spends too much,” he said in a Senate floor speech this morning. “And we’re not going to get out of it until Democrats get serious about real spending cuts and meaningful entitlement reform.”
In case anyone didn’t get the message, Boehner’s office later circulated a Wall Street Journal report about a meeting with GOP leaders in which Erskine Bowles, the former co-chair of the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction commission, declared that Democrats need to give ground on entitlements for both sides to reach a deal.
As for Obama? He spent most of his speech this morning talking about how the Republicans need to budge first to keep middle-class taxes from going up at the end of the year. He also urged both parties to agree on a “framework” for a “fair and balanced” deficit reduction plan by Christmas, and added that if Congress can prevent the middle-class tax hikes first, “then a lot of the other issues surrounding deficit reduction in a fair and balanced and responsible way are going to be a whole lot easier.”
When will both sides go quiet? If it doesn’t happen by the middle of next month, then maybe it’s time to start worrying about that fiscal cliff.