Refusing to take ‘yes’ for an answer

On Friday afternoon, after House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) abandoned debt-reduction talks with the White House, President Obama held a press conference and raised a compelling point:

“I think that one of the questions that the Republican Party is going to have to ask itself is, can they say yes to anything? Can they say yes to anything?”

The answer may very well be, “No, they can’t.”

I’m trying to remember all of the various offers Republicans have turned down over the last several months. They started from the sensible position that the debt ceiling must be raised, and then proceeded to turn down every viable alternative.

* Democrats asked Republicans to pass a clean bill, just as GOP leaders had supported many times in the past. Republicans said, “No.”

* Democrats invited Republicans to Biden-led bipartisan talks. Republicans quit.

* Democrats offered a $2.4 trillion debt-reduction package, 83% of which would come from spending cuts. Republicans said, “No.”

* Democrats sought a Grand Bargain, with more than $4 trillion in savings. Republicans said, “No.”

* Several Democrats offered some preliminary support for the “Gang of Six” blueprint. Republicans said, “No.”

* Many more Democrats signaled support for the McConnell/Reid “Plan B.” Republicans said, “No.”

Is it me, or is there a pattern to all of this?

Late yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced his support for a yet another approach that would meet all of the GOP demands: it would (1) include about $2.7 trillion in debt reduction; (2) bring in nothing in the way of new revenue; and (3) require only one debt-ceiling increase this Congress, just as GOP leaders requested.

By all indications, Republicans will reject Reid’s latest offer, too.

Which brings us back to the president’s question: “Can they say yes to anything?”

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.