Reid accepts ransom note’s terms, confuses GOP

At a certain level, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) more or less ended the dispute over the debt ceiling late yesterday. That is to say, congressional Republicans launched a hostage strategy several months ago — give them debt reduction or they’ll crash the economy on purpose — and as of yesterday, Reid had agreed to all of the GOP’s terms.

In fairness, the details are not yet available, and may be objectionable. But the Majority Leader’s framework would (1) include about $2.7 trillion in debt reduction, just as Republicans demanded; (2) bring in nothing in the way of new revenue just as Republicans demanded; and (3) require only one debt-ceiling increase this Congress, just as GOP leaders demanded.

And yet, there’s no deal. What’s the hold up? Brian Beutler reports that Reid seems to have caught Republicans off guard.

Republicans have been tight-lipped so far about Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s surprise offer of $2.7 trillion in spending cuts — and no tax revenue — to raise the debt limit through 2012.

There are a few reasons for that. First, as Red State’s Erick Erickson subtly pointed out, Republicans were not expecting to wake up to headlines noting that Reid’s offering more immediate cuts than House Speaker John Boehner’s proposing. Second, because about a trillion of those dollars comes from the expected wind down of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan — a source of savings Republicans have recently opposed but, oops, voted for in the House GOP budget.

But another reason, according to one senior GOP aide is that Reid decided to go it alone pretty abruptly, and they haven’t seen his proposal yet.

Given that the norm is immediate and categorical GOP opposition to all Democratic plans, “tight-lipped” Republicans is arguably a sign of progress. At least, it would be if House Republicans weren’t planning to move on a plan they know Senate Dems and the White House oppose, effectively preparing a game of chicken within a game of chicken.

But as the process unfolds, Matt Yglesias has a smart piece on the larger context. On the surface, GOP leaders say they have two key demands: trillions in spending cuts and no new revenue. Harry Reid’s latest offer is intended to address what Republicans claim to care about.

But as Matt explained, their stated demands are more of a smokescreen for their actual concerns: they want to cut Medicare and prevent future tax increases, especially on the wealthy. Reid’s plan does neither.

So, we appear to be stuck — again — because Republicans are unwilling to take “yes” for an answer.