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Obama's Bully Pulpit Frustrates GOP

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call
Real fiscal cliff progress probably won’t happen until closer to Christmas. Until then, Boehner and House Republicans realize they can do little other than wait for Obama to act.

House Republicans, nevertheless, realize that in the meantime, they can do little other than wait for the president to act.

Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, conceded Friday that there will likely be more theatrics before a resolution emerges, and he said that short of holding news conferences decrying the president, there is not much Republicans can do to move the negotiations along.

“What needs to happen is the president and John Boehner need to get back into a room and actually start negotiating instead of this kind of nonsense with [Treasury Secretary Timothy F.] Geithner coming up and throwing out this piece of paper that’s  . . .  just laughable,” he said. “That’s what leadership is all about, and what you need is a White House that’s willing to lead.”

On Thursday, Geithner offered Republicans a package of $1.6 trillion in tax increases, including increases in estate and capital gains taxes, $50 billion in stimulus spending, a permanent raising of the debt ceiling, a one-year deferral of sequestration spending cuts and $400 billion in future entitlement cuts to be decided on in the next Congress.

Republicans were left to ponder whether and in what form to present a counteroffer. A decision had not been made by the weekend, with Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., telling reporters Friday: “We’re not interested in playing rope-a-dope.”

Though it is not a formal offer, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told the Wall Street Journal Friday that his party could accept more revenue — though still not rate hikes — if Obama agrees to higher Medicare premiums for the wealthy, an increase in the Medicare eligibility age and a slowing of cost-of-living increases for programs such as Social Security.

Democrats, however, are just as wary of being sucker-punched.

House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., said Friday that although Republicans want them to offer spending and entitlement cuts, previous spending battles have shown them that they should wait for the GOP to act.

“What the Republicans want is, they want give on their stuff first. There’s no give on taxes, revenues, none,” he said.

Hoyer described the GOP strategy as, “‘Let’s bargain. How about cutting this?’ ‘OK.’ ‘How about cutting this?’ ‘OK.’ ‘How about cutting this?’ ‘OK.’ And then you say to me, ‘Well, now, how about we raise revenues here?’ ‘We’re not going to talk about that. We’re going to walk out of the room.’ That’s what Cantor did. That’s essentially what Boehner did.”

Jonathan Strong contributed to this report.

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