John Boehner Lengthens The Fuse On The Austerity Bomb

In a White House meeting with President Obama and other Congressional leaders Friday, House Speaker John Boehner traced a procedural path for reaching deficit reduction targets next year, while avoiding immediate, and deeper, budget tightening in January.

The outline, provided by Boehner’s staff, indicates that Republicans have conceded that they’ll have to meet President Obama’s call for significantly higher revenue. But it’s shy on details about where those revenues would come from and what concessions Republicans would require from Democrats in return.“Since tax and entitlement reform are too complex to complete this year, the Speaker noted, our goal for this year, in the coming weeks, is to settle on long-term revenue targets for tax reform as well as targets for savings from our entitlement programs,” according to a Boehner aide. “Once we settle on those targets, the Speaker proposed, we can create simple mechanisms, in statute, that would achieve those revenue and spending goals. They would be in place unless or until more thoughtful policies replace them. The Speaker recalled the president’s call for a ‘balanced’ approach to the debt problem — a combination of revenues and spending cuts — and said the framework Republicans have proposed is consistent with it.”

The framework suggests that automatic budget cuts and tax increases scheduled for the new year would be removed and replaced with a different kind of enforcement mechanism that would include both higher taxes and lower spending.

With negotiations still in their earliest stages, it’s unclear what the revenue target will be. It also remains to be seen whether the target will be measurable by congressional analysts, or whether Republicans will ask for a “dynamic scoring,” a dubious supply side analysis which assumes certain tax reductions partially or completely pay for themselves via higher economic growth.

Likewise, the framework does not contain details about the nature and extent of the entitlement cuts Republicans are seeking.

Top White House and Congressional aides will work through the Thanksgiving holiday to begin filling in these details, and higher-level meetings will resume after next week.