As budget talks collapse, Boehner moves the goalposts

AS BUDGET TALKS COLLAPSE, BOEHNER MOVES THE GOALPOSTS…. President Obama hosted budget talks at the White House this morning, and by all accounts, they went nowhere. Indeed, at a moment when progress is absolutely necessary, it appears the entire process is collapsing.

And why are negotiations going backwards? Greg Sargent flags an important reason.

With a government shutdown looming and budget talks apparently at a standstill, Democratic aides are accusing the GOP of moving the goalposts for compromise yet again.

A senior Senate Democratic aide tells me that in today’s private meeting at the White House, Speaker John Boehner signaled to the President and to Harry Reid that Republicans were not willing to support any budget compromise that can’t garner the votes of 218 Republicans in the House. That would be a break from the GOP’s previous posture: Republican leaders had appeared willing to reach a deal that could pass the House with Republican and Democratic support, even if it meant losing some Republicans.

This is no small revelation. The Speaker’s goal is no longer getting the 218 votes necessary to pass, it’s getting 218 Republican votes. It’s tempting to think Boehner would be thrilled to complete a deal with bipartisan support, but the opposite is proving to be true.

As a practical matter, that means the Speaker is insisting on a deal that would lose no more than 23 member of his own caucus — there are 241 House Republicans, and if 23 break ranks, he can still end up with 218 GOP votes. But we already know the size of hysterical wing of the House GOP caucus is far bigger than 23 people.

And that’s why he’s moving the goalposts. Boehner could take the deal that’s on the table, pass the bill, and avoid a shutdown, but he won’t because it’s more important to him to pass the bill with Republican votes, instead of bipartisan support.

So, what’s next? The Speaker is scheduled to meet privately with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) in about an hour, and maybe the GOP leadership will be more cooperative if it isn’t seen as striking a deal with the White House, but it’s unlikely. President Obama spoke to reporters this afternoon, and said he’ll bring back the relevant players to the White House every day this week to keep talks going, but given Republican intransigence, it’s hard to imagine what else there is to talk about.

For what it’s worth, the president repeatedly referred this afternoon to a specific, relevant point — the spending cuts he’s prepared to accept are just as big as those originally proposed by the House Republican leadership. It’s challenging, if not outright silly, for the GOP to argue that the scope of the budget cuts is simply too small when the party’s own leaders are already on record asking for the White House is now offering.

But reason, propriety, and common sense obviously have no role in this debate whatsoever.