The "grand bargain" between Democrats and Republicans fizzled over the weekend after House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) rejected President Obama's proposal for more tax increases in exchange for cuts in Social Security and Medicare spending. That means the House is no closer to reaching an agreement that would raise the debt ceiling, saving the country from defaulting on its loans. In a press conference Monday morning, Obama insisted that he wouldn't sign any short-term deal to raise the debt limit, saying he would only approve "the largest possible deal" — consistent with his position that Congress should use the debt talks as an opportunity to pass sweeping budget legislation. With the Aug. 2 deadline to raise the debt ceiling looming dangerously close, is it time that Obama cave a bit on his "go-big" aspirations?
The strategy never had a chance: Obama's "go-big" strategy was always a long shot, says Jena McGregor at The Washington Post. "Going for the 'big' when there's been almost no 'small' is not the way most compromises get made." A breakthrough the size of which Obama proposed only happens after a series of smaller deals that "build trust, bridge alliances, and create a foundation of confidence" between two parties. With Democrats and Republicans "further apart" on these issues than they've been in recent memory, the "building blocks of grand compromises" are missing.
"The problem with Obama's 'go-big' debt ceiling strategy"
A less ambitious plan would be more likely to pass: Rather than keep pushing a big bipartisan proposal that Republicans won't accept, Obama should be peddling a "medium-sized bipartisan deal" that would be more palatable to both parties, says Yuval Levin at National Review. Instead of fruitlessly pressuring the GOP to accept increased tax revenues, Obama should propose reducing defense and discretionary spending in exchange for mild, deficit-neutral tax reform. Really, the "lost opportunity for a big compromise" is actually a "gained opportunity for a real compromise."
"A Real Deal"
But, for now, the strategy is good for Obama, politically: After publicly chiding the Republicans for their unwillingness to make concessions in debt talks, Obama's press conference "seemed more about pressing his tactical political advantage than furthering negotiations," says Adam Sorensen at TIME. Each time Obama speaks about how far he was willing to go to compromise on debt talks, he reminds voters that "he is the responsible and concerned steward" and that the Republicans are being "stubborn." Remaining steadfast on an "ambitious" deal may not be practical — the GOP clearly will not bend its position on tax increases — but it does leave Obama "in a politically favorable position."
"In debt press conference, Obama enjoys the upper-hand"