NewsNation | November 30, 2012
>> speaker boehner make nothing bones about this afternoon when he was asked about the current state of negotiations. take a listen.
>> there's a stalemate. let's not kid ourselves. i'm not trying to make this more difficult. if you've watched me over the last three weeks, i've been very guarded in what i had to say.
>> how much of this is about political posturing?
>> probably about 99% of it. look, but i don't disagree with the assessment from the white house or the speaker's office. things are at a stalemate right now. neither side is anywhere close to where they would need to be in order to get a deal. not just on taxes, but also on entitlements. the republicans are being very clear that they want cuts to entitlements, increases to medicare eligibility age for instance, changes to the waych amount of p remie ups paid for more wealthy senior citizens . and they say we need to lock in these cuts before we talk about revenues. and when they talk about revenue, they're talking about -- they're not talking about extending, increasing the tax rate for the top income earners. and the democrats say we need to extend all taxes for folks who make more than $250,000 a year. so they are really talking about two different things right now. not even close. as we know, we're only a month away from the critical year end deadline.
>> michael, let's talk about the president's trip to pennsylvania today where you are. why this toy company in suburban philly and why even bother traveling? would he have been better served to stay behind closed doors in d.c. to continue negotiations with congressional leaders?
>> these folks make tinker toys and lincoln logs . i bet you remember both of those because i certainly do. i don't think he was drawn to the products. i think he was probably drawn to the area because this is where you come when you're trying to win hearts and minds . these are those philly burbs that are up for grabs. you hear about them every four years. they're not i'd logically driven. they tend to be fiscally conservative and socially liberal . and it seems he's here to win folks over so as to win his bargaining position when he does have to deal with speaker boehner.
>> let's talk about the president's opening offer. it's gotten a lot of attention here. it includes no plan at this point for actual structural reform to entitlement programs . instead of spending cuts, the president's plan also calls for about $50 billion initially of more stimulus spending. most of that on infrastructure. why start with a nonstarter? what's the strategy behind opening with an offer that the white house knows the gop is not going to accept?
>> well, what offer will they accept? i mean, this is like a football team that lost the super bowl and is trying to negotiate for the super bowl rings. you can't decide the future based on losing the past. we had an election. the president put a proposal out there. it has $1.6 trillion in new revenue that includes revenue from deductions that the republicans are talking about, and also includes increasing the tax rates . but there are also spending cuts in there that republicans don't want it acknowledge. it's $34 trillion appropriate. and the president has put a proposal together that actually is beneficial to him because from a political point of view, if we do go off the fiscal cliff, the republicans are the ones that will get blamed for it, not the president according to the polls. and if we don't go off the fiscal cliff, the republicans will get blamed from their right wing base for capitulating. so they're in a damned if you do, damned if you don't position. the president has strong hand here.
>> you mentioned medicare . let's focus on entitlement reform here specifically. this was congressman eric cantor this afternoon. take a listen.
>> what we've always said is we want to fix the problem. we want to make sure that we get a handle on these unfunded obligations, connect it with the sbilgtszment programs. we want to stop the spending problem so we can then go about trying to manage down the debt and deficit.
>> nbc's first read made this point. the white house is sending the message that if republicans want entitlement reform, they're the ones who will have to propose it. how much of this is about getting the gop to do some of the dirty work on a sticky issue for democrats ?
>> i think that is a very big part of it. look, nobody -- we just went through a campaign in which medicare , the ryan budget, and changes to medicare and cuts out of medicare were such a huge issue, both sides claiming that they wanted to protect seniors. but, look, i think the democrats believe that they have an opportunity, they have leverage on the tax issue, that they don't want to talk about these entitlement changes until the republicans agree to increase the tax rate on the top 2%. because after all, there was a bill that passed out of the senate and they believe that at the end of the day , if that bill is still on the plate, on the republicans ' plate in the house, they'll have to pass it staring down the fiscal cliff.
>> but here's the thing. both sides acknowledge that you're not going to get a deal done without some sort of change to entitlements. specifically medicare .
>> well, i'm not so sure what that means when you say it's some sort of change. some sort of structural change to medicare ? i'm not sure that has to be on the table. i do think, though, that we do have to have some spending cuts and the president has acknowledged that, as well. but the basis of the problem is you have to have -- the republican party is intransigent about the idea of tax increases and the taxes will grow up after december 31st regardless of what happens. if you don't do anything, they'll go up. so you have to do something. you'll have 98% of the american people who will get a tax cut under president obama 's proposal, 97% of american small businesses will get a tax cut . so why not come to a negotiated deal on the things that we agree on and put aside the other things. we don't thesely have to agree on those 2%. let's work on where there is some sort of compromisable solution or common ground.
>> michael sm, what do you think is going on behind these meetings, what do you think these conversations are like?
>> i don't know. i'm frustrated by the approach. i don't like the way this is all being litigated publicly and maybe it there's not an alternative. it seems that this deal gets done when the president is behind closed doors with john boehner . i think that's what it will take. it speaks to me, craig, of how there's no socialization left in washington. members of congress are there tuesday through thursday. they get out of dodge. their kids aren't in school there. not enough sharing of cocktails among one another. and frankly, i think they need to spend more time together and stop litigating this thing openly.
>> bipartisan bourbon perhaps.
>> you had a piece in politico this week and here is the headline. democrats bet republicans cave on taxes. how confident are democrats that they're going to win this thing, they'll make this happen.
>> they feel like this looks like the 2011 payroll tax . remember at the time house republicans were not going to pass that extension to that payroll tax holiday, but they felt boxed in at the end of the day and they eventually had to do what the president wanted. democrats believe that they have the issue here, they have a bill that passed out of the senate. they think the house will adopt it. the republicans say there is just no way that's going to happen, that in order to get any sort of deal on revenue, democrats have to