Boehner signals progress on tax policy?

BOEHNER SIGNALS PROGRESS ON TAX POLICY?…. Everyone no doubt knows the score by now. The White House wants to make permanent lower tax rates on the middle class, while allowing breaks for the wealthy to expire on schedule; Republicans (and some less-progressive Democrats) want to make all of the lower rates permanent, no matter how much it adds to the deficit.

By mid-week, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) had a new idea, which was pitched as a “compromise”: President Obama would agree to give Republicans everything they want for the next two years, at which point, they would demand the exact same thing all over again.

The president responded with a counter-offer: No. “[M]y position is, let’s get done what we all agree on,” Obama said at a press conference. “What they’ve said is they agree that the middle-class tax cuts should be made permanent. Let’s work on that. Let’s do it. We can have a further conversation about how they want to spend an additional $700 billion to give an average of $100,000 to millionaires.” He added that lower rates for the middle class is “something that we can all agree to. Why hold it up? Why hold the middle class hostage in order to do something that most economists don’t think makes sense?”

This morning, Boehner suggested he’d be willing to go along with the president’s approach — but only if he had no other choice.

“If the only option I have is to vote for some of those tax reductions I’ll vote for them,” Boehner said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” […]

Host Bob Schieffer pressed Boehner repeatedly on whether he would vote for a bill that didn’t include the extension of tax cuts for those making over $250,000.

“If that’s what we can get done,” Boehner said.

The Minority Leader made clear that this isn’t his preferred option. He desperately wants lower rates for the wealthy, no matter how much it costs or what it does to the budget, and thinks it’s “bad policy” to let some rates expire on schedule (in other words, Boehner now opposes the policy he and his party shaped in 2001 and 2003).

But the bottom line is, Boehner suggested this morning that he’d rather have some lower rates than no lower rates. That may seem like a common-sense position for a Republican to take, but remember, the GOP has strongly resisted this line up until now. Indeed, Republicans have effectively said they’re prepared to hold the entire policy hostage — if Dems didn’t agree to breaks for the rich, the GOP would block lower rates for the middle class. If Republicans didn’t get everything they want, they’d make sure Democrats wouldn’t get any of what they want.

It was, in effect, a game of chicken: give in to GOP demands or else. This morning, Boehner seemed to point in a different direction, conceding if Obama’s tax breaks for 98% of the country is all he can get, he’ll take it.

Unless Boehner somehow walks this back, it looks like progress.