A peek behind the curtain

A PEEK BEHIND THE CURTAIN…. With a budget deal in place, we’re starting to hear from some of the relevant players — or, at least, officials with direct knowledge of what the relevant players were up to — about the developments as they unfolded behind the scenes.

In particular, it seems there was one line Democrats simply wouldn’t cross.

At one crucial moment in the game of chicken over a looming shutdown of the United States government, President Obama and the House speaker, John A. Boehner, faced off in the Oval Office. Mr. Boehner, a Republican heavily outnumbered in the room by Democrats, was demanding a provision to restrict financing to Planned Parenthood and other groups that provide abortions. Mr. Obama would not budge.

“Nope. Zero,” the president said to the speaker. Mr. Boehner tried again. “Nope. Zero,” Mr. Obama repeated. “John, this is it.” A long silence followed, said one participant in the meeting. “It was just like an awkward, ‘O.K., well, what do you do now?’ ”
That meeting broke without an agreement.

The sane senior Democratic aide relayed the story to ABC News, and added, “There were a good 10 minutes of just sitting there of everybody looking at each other…. [Republicans] realized that kind of the gig was up. They weren’t going to get [defunding for family planning] included. It wasn’t going to happen. The president and Sen. Reid were prepared to say, ‘This bill will go down if you make this about social policy.’ That was the line in the sand.”

I’m certainly glad the line was drawn somewhere, and this was a good place to draw it.

But White House officials should probably start making a fairly long list of priorities deserving of lines in the sand, because over the next couple of rounds, GOP officials will be gunning for the social contract, institutions like Medicare, and much of the federal government.