Meeting more than halfway

MEETING MORE THAN HALFWAY…. After meeting with congressional leaders at the White House the other day, President Obama talked to reporters about the state of the negotiations. He used some numbers that, to some folks, may have seemed unfamiliar.

“Speaker Boehner, Chairman Rogers, the Republican appropriations chairman — their original budget proposed $73 billion in cuts. We have now agreed to $73 billion worth of cuts. What they are now saying is, ‘Well, we’re not sure that every single one of the cuts that you’ve made are ones that we agree to; we’d rather have these cuts rather than that cut.’ That’s not the basis for shutting down the government. We should be able to come up with a compromise in which nobody gets 100 percent of what they want, but the American people get the peace of mind in knowing that folks here in Washington are actually thinking about them — because they’re going through a whole lot of struggles right now.”

I imagine some observers heard this and thought, “$73 billion? I thought they were talking about $61 billion?”

Let’s quickly review one of the pertinent details in case anyone needs a refresher. When House Republicans approved their plan to cut $61 billion in spending, they said it was actually $100 billion in cuts. Why? Because they used the White House’s 2011 budget plan, instead of current spending levels, as a baseline. They were cutting $61 billion from the status quo, but $100 billion from what the Obama administration originally had in mind.

Given this, we get a sense of what the president was talking about — using the same baseline as the House GOP, the White House, as of Wednesday, supported $73 billion in cuts. As of this morning, Democrats are now offering $78 billion in cuts.

For the purposes of regular conversation, the new/final offer from Dems is $38 billion, as compared to the Republican demand for $61 billion, but for the purposes of the larger budget discussion among policymakers, Dems are offering $78 billion in cuts as compared to the GOP demand for $100 billion.

In either case, the size of the cuts Democrats are now offering is enormous — the largest, in absolute terms, ever made at one time — and evidence of a party that’s been willing to meet the GOP halfway, and then some.