Will Republicans trade a bad START for temporary tax cuts?

December 1, 2010 05:29

A possible end game that appeared to be taking shape could give Republicans the across-the-board tax-cut extensions that they are seeking, albeit in temporary form, in exchange for a Senate vote on the arms control treaty, a top priority for Obama.

The Americano

The video clips and sound bites of participants in a the much anticipated meeting Tuesday at the White House between President Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats and Republicans were civil and polite, a possible indication that both sides wanted to reach a compromise on issues that divide the two parties.

The meeting that was scheduled to last an hour in the Roosevelt Room went on for two, with the White House clearing the room of all non-participants for the last 35 minutes. Possibly another sign that at least Republicans and Democrats in Congress and the White House were ready to begin working with each other in a bipartisan manner and did not want people leaking the context of what they said to the press.

The White House described the meeting between Obama and eight lawmakers as a “more intimate session.”

But once one brushed off the civility and diplomacy, the only concrete things the two sides agreed to do was an agree to work towards resolving an impasse over the Bush tax cuts, set to expire at the end of the year.

President Obama appointed Treasury Secretary and Jacob Lew, head of the Office of Management and Budget to work with two Democrats and two Republicans “to break through this logjam.”

Obama described the meeting as productive, “very civil” and “a good start as we move forward.” He said he planned to hold additional talks in Washington and at Camp David.  White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said later, however, that while the president had told lawmakers he needed to do more to make sure the two parties could work together.

“The president acknowledged he needed to do better,” Gibbs said. Republicans did not offer a similar pledge.

Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) – who has complained that at a similar meeting two years ago Obama told Republicans “I won” – said he found a president who very much understood that his party lost the midterm elections.

On Capitol Hill, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the meeting was “a useful and a frank discussion.” The House’s top Republican, Rep. John A. Boehner (Ohio), applauded Obama’s outreach and said he looked forward to more talks.

Tuesday was not a day when one could talk about who won and who lost, or even of who had blinked first.

That will come when the two sides announce some concrete agreements on the myriad of issues discussed at Tuesday’s meeting.

First on the agenda was a possible permanent or temporary extension on the Bush tax cuts for all taxpayers, as Republicans wants; or an agreement that extends those tax cuts only to those whose families who earn less than $250,000 a year as Democrats want.

According to The Washington Post  sources said that a possible end game that appeared to be taking shape could give Republicans the across-the-board tax-cut extensions that they are seeking, albeit in temporary form, in exchange for a Senate vote on the arms control treaty, a top priority for Obama.

This came despite comments by McConnell who deflected questions about the new START nuclear weapons treaty, saying it was the “unanimous view” of all 42 Senate Republicans to first settle the tax dispute and to agree on a funding deal for the federal government.

President Obama granted Republicans their first win Monday, when he proposed a two-year pay freeze for civilian federal workers, a potential area of agreement that Republicans welcomed, saying it was one of their ideas.

The President’s proposal still has to be approved by Congress, and it will only come if Republicans back him, for several of the most liberal Democrats in the House and Senate and not likely to vote for the pay freeze.

“Going forward, we’re going to have to make some additional very tough decisions that this town has put off for a very long time. And that’s what this upcoming week is really about,” Obama said. “My hope is that, starting today, we can begin a bipartisan conversation about our future, because we face challenges that will require the cooperation of Democrats, Republicans and independents. Everybody is going to have to cooperate. We can’t afford to fall back onto the same old ideologies or the same stale sound bites.”

Now the American public must sit back and wait to see if Republicans and Democrats can come together before the 111th Congress adjourns later this month and pass at least some of the many items still pending approval. Among them are: the Bush tax cuts; the extension of jobless benefits, which expired Tuesday; the START treaty; and a funding resolution for the federal government, which needs to be done by Friday.

Once the 111th Congress adjourns before Christmas the public will know which side prevailed and which one was derailed; or if the logjam in Washington will continue.

The Americano/ Agencies

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