Few signs of progress toward a fiscal cliff deal

“The only thing that would keep us from getting there,” Timothy Geithner said, “is a refusal from Republicans to let rates go up on the wealthiest Americans, and I don’t think they’re going to do that.” “The only thing that would keep us from getting there,” Timothy Geithner said, “is a refusal from Republicans to let rates go up on the wealthiest Americans, and I don’t think they’re going to do that.” Chris Usher/AP
John Boehner and Timothy Geithner both managed to crack smiles during televised interviews about the fiscal cliff on Sunday, and neither man raised his voice or grew visibly agitated.

But nothing else from either the House speaker or the Treasury secretary -- not body language, not rhetoric -- suggested Washington lawmakers are anywhere close to a breakthrough on solving the so-called fiscal cliff before its tax hikes and spending cuts begin to kick in next month.

Geithner, who has played point man for President Obama’s negotiating team with Republicans over the last week, told NBC’s David Gregory that “I think we’re going to get there” and reach a deal. His follow-up suggested that’s less optimism and more a public pressure tactic. “The only thing that would keep us from getting there,” he said, “is a refusal from Republicans to let rates go up on the wealthiest Americans, and I don’t think they’re going to do that.”

That’s exactly how the White House would like the public to view these negotiations: as eminently solvable, and stuck only on pesky upper-income tax rates. Republicans see them very differently, with a heavy emphasis on a need to reduce future government spending to bring down the budget deficit, as Boehner made clear.

“What we don’t know,” he told Fox’s Chris Wallace, “is what’s the president is willing to do” to reduce safety-net spending on programs such as Medicare and Social Security, as part of a debt-reduction package.

Neither Boehner not Geithner hinted at any real policy breakthroughs in the discussions. The interviews were more revealing about negotiating tactics -- specifically, which parts of their hands both men consider to be strongest, and worth pressing.

Geithner and Obama clearly see public support for raising taxes on the rich as their best card. “There's no surprise in this,” Geithner told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. “We've been proposing this for a very long time. The president campaigned on it.  And I think that's where we're gonna end up.”

Boehner clearly sees the need to raise the federal borrowing limit early next year -- or risk default on debt or non-payment of major government obligations -- as the GOP’s best tool in forcing more spending cuts. “It’s the only way to leverage the political process to produce more change than what it would if left alone,” he said.

Perhaps the most important clues about the state of the negotiations came from what neither Boehner nor Geithner expressed in the interviews. Optimists would note the decided lack of rancor. Pessimists would note the complete lack of new concessions. All of which probably adds up to very little progress, thus far.
Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.