Good news on the Grand Bargain Zombie
It sounds like we dodged the Grand Bargain bullet again. For the moment anyway:
Through multiple meetings with White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, Deputy Chief of Staff Rob Nabors and Budget Director Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the group discussed a range of options, including a “grand bargain” that would involve a complete restructuring of Medicare, according to people familiar with the meetings, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the private talks.
The idea that the President could have sold this to the Democrats, even with some illusory tax hikes seems unlikely, but who knows? On the other hand it's far more likely than the GOP being able to sell it to the tea partiers. The sequester is terrible and so is the Grand Bargain. It's time for some fresh thinking on all of this.
The group also discussed a smaller deal that would replace much of the remaining sequester savings — about $500 billion over the next eight years — with narrower reforms to Medicare, Social Security and other mandatory-spending programs, such as farm subsidies.
But the talks never really gelled, in part because Republicans would not consider raising taxes on the wealthy or corporations as part of the smaller deal, arguing that congressional Republicans as a whole would never agree to replace sequester cuts with higher taxes. Nor did they offer a specific strategy for raising taxes as part of the larger deal.
The final meeting came Thursday at the White House, where the group also discussed potential military action against Syria. The eight senators were Corker, Johnny Isakson (Ga.), Daniel Coats (Ind.), Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), John Hoeven (N.D.), Ronald H. Johnson (Wis.) and, joining by phone, John McCain (Ariz.) and Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.).
By the end of the session, both sides agreed there was no point in meeting again.
In the meantime it looks as if we're heading for another showdown. What could go wrong?