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Hullabaloo


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

 
Deficit Hawks Down

by digby

My favorite story of the day
Senate Republicans who shared laughs with President Obama over dinner at the Jefferson Hotel in March are grumbling there has since been little follow-through from him on deficit talks.

They say the White House has not set up a process for negotiating controversial reforms to Social Security, healthcare programs and the tax code, and that absence of basic organization has stalled negotiations.

"We've made no progress. None," said a GOP senator who had dinner with President Obama earlier this year. "There's no process in place. Right now we just have 20 Republican senators meeting and talking to themselves."

The lawmaker said Obama needs to sit down regularly with about five or six GOP senators to begin making substantial progress toward a deficit-reduction deal.

A White House spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

Some Republicans think the president has become distracted from the deficit by intensified public controversies over the attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, the Internal Revenue Service's targeting of Tea Party groups and the Justice Department’s investigation of the Associated Press.

"Those kinds of things can't help but turn the total focus of the deficit reduction away from the White House's perspective,” said Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), who had dinner with Obama on March 6 and golfed with him earlier this month.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who helped organize the March 6 dinner at the Jefferson Hotel, said that the White House and GOP senators have not gotten to the point of exchanging paper outlining their competing proposals. 
“We’ve been talking about trying to define the problem. Can we all agree what the next 30 years holds in terms of deficits, cost of entitlement programs? How much we’re going to spend, how much revenue we can generate?” Graham added. “It’s nice if you can have a 30-year view of things.” 
That is nice. And if they can all see 30 years into the future I hope they'll share because it's probably a good time to buy some stock.
Clearly, they have lost their focus. It wasn't long ago that we were obsessed with the imminent collapse of Western civilization if we didn't cut government spending to the bone immediately. Now, they can't even define the problem and are looking for a "nice" 30 year projection. (Why 30, though? Why not take a 60 year view or a 100 year view --- it's just as useful...)

Unfortunately, the wind has gone out of the deficit fetishists sails:
Coburn agrees with colleagues who say there has been very little progress on deficit-reduction talks with Obama.

“I’d say that’s a fair assessment,” he said.

Obama told Republicans who had dinner with him on March 6 that a deficit deal would need to happen by August.

That timeline has now been pushed until the fall and may even slide to the end of the year.
“Maybe in January,” said Coburn.

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew took some of the pressure off earlier this month by alerting Congress that the nation’s debt ceiling would not have to be raised until after Labor Day.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates the debt ceiling does not have to be lifted until October or November.

Democrats say one problem is that Obama has had difficulty finding Republicans with the authority to negotiate on behalf of their party.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and Republican Whip John Cornyn (Texas) face reelection in 2014. Although a credible conservative challenger has yet to emerge against either one, they remain cautious.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) declared at the beginning of the year that he was finished with negotiating one-on-one with Obama.

White House officials say the president made a good-faith offer toward compromise when he proposed adopting the chained consumer price index to curb the growth of Social Security benefits in his budget plan.

Hopes for a broad bipartisan deal to cut the deficit are waning.

Once again, saved by the GOP's idiotic inability to take yes for an answer. Huzzah.

I'm not sure we're out of the woods entirely, but it's looking much less likely. Still, vigilance is necessary. The Pete Petersons of the world will not rest. When you have as much money as they do you can play a very long game.