The Boehner fallback plan that imploded last night looked like pretty good strategy. As political analyst Chris Krueger of the Washington Research Group argued in a research note yesterday, Plan B could have a) at least partially shielded House Republicans from blame for fiscal cliff dive, and b) increased their leverage in the negotiations. Krueger:
By passing Plan B, Boehner displays a strength of force by showing he has the support of his rank-and-file. Furthermore, by taking the middle class tax hike threat off the table, the GOP can retake the negotiating high ground, dig new trenches, and apply maximum leverage on the debt ceiling and demand big spending cuts and entitlement reforms (so the theory goes.)
Well, so much for that. Now what? Probably still a deal. The National Journal makes a pretty good case for just that outcome:
Though Boehner couldn’t get his caucus on record supporting a tax hike, his voter counters now have a much better idea of how many Republicans could get behind that approach. … The failed vote creates space for Boehner and Obama to restart negotiations. Both the House and Senate aren’t expected to take any more action on the cliff until after Christmas. With lawmakers back home and the nation tuned out for the holidays, Obama and Boehner could resume talks in a much less frenzied environment. … Despite all the overheated rhetoric, Obama and Boehner aren’t that far apart on the actual numbers. On the question of how much new revenue the government should bring in through higher taxes, the two are separated by $200 billion in a multi-trillion dollar deal. On spending cuts, the two are again only $200 billion apart, not an unbridgeable gulf.
Here’s the thing with that. Boehner doesn’t need to get all of his caucus, because in the end, if Obama supports the ultimate compromise, then it’s safe to say that the Democrats will bring about 100+ votes in the house to support the bill. And this was always true. It was always the case that the eventual compromise would see Boehner lose 70 or more Republicans, to be made up with Democrat support. So nothing changes on that front.
Maybe the “Obama will cave” theory will still prove true. But it is the GOP that looks to be in disarray.