Where Things Really Stand in the Fiscal Cliff Negotiations
The GOP: they are either too fearful or too lazy to spell out exactly what they want.
But any deal will include much more than those top-line items. It will also include deficit-reduction and tax reform targets for Congress to hit in the coming months. That gets to a deeper problem in the negotiations: When you drill down to the granular policy level, Republicans aren’t sure what Republicans want. Democrats complain that the Republican offers are bare of policy detail. They lay down targets — say, $600 billion in health savings — but say nothing about how those targets will be achieved.
Republican staffers admit that they need more time to come up with specific cuts — and, for that matter, specific tax reforms. But they argue they’ll have that time. Any deal is expected to include a two-stage process: Targets for spending cuts and tax revenues now, combined with consequences that force Congress to hit those targets later.
The administration is a bit agog at this approach: If you don’t know how you’re going to hit your target, how can you possibly know whether your target is reasonable? It’s like buying a house with the expectation that you’ll figure out how to pay for it later.