Not Meeting Halfway


Jonathan Cohn examines the state of the fiscal cliff negotiations:

What happens now? Obama has sent a strong signal that he’s done with major concessions. The administration apparently imagined that its most recent offer was close to its final one—that the debate had come down to the numbers and that, in relative terms, the two sides were not that far apart. Obviously that was not the case. And whether Obama made the compromise offer because he is a lousy negotiator or because, given the economic and political alternatives, he felt compelled to pursue seriously a major deal—the two explanations are not mutually exclusive—it’s hard to imagine him budging much from his current position. Republicans, also prone to misjudging the contours of negotiations, may be skeptical. That would be a mistake—if only because, if Obama tries, the liberals who have supported him will go into open revolt. As they should. 

Steinglass believes that Obama may succeed in "dividing and weakening the Republican Party":

Fostering the civil war in the Republican Party is crucial to Mr Obama's chances of getting any part of his agenda passed over the next four years. The top items on that agenda are climate-change legislation, immigration reform, and (suddenly) gun control, along with keeping up some measure of progressive stimulus until the economy is fully recovering. But if the Republican faction in the House stays as united as it has been for the past 18 years, only immigration reform has any chance of passing. If Mr Obama can crack Republican party discipline on taxes, he may be able to press the other items on his agenda as well. Alternatively, he can look forward to elections against a divided, angry GOP in 2014, and hope to go into the last two years of his term with a stronger position in the House.

(Chart of all the fiscal cliff proposals and counter-proposals from Dylan Matthews)