UYGUR: Once budget talk turned to taxes the Republicans ran for the hills. They didn`t want to be anywhere around there. So now it`s time for President Obama to step in to close the deal.
Today, we got word Obama will meet with Democratic and Republican leaders, one on one, starting Monday. The goal is to get the top leaders together so that they can finish those talks that got derailed when House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Senate Republican Whip Jon Kyl pulled out on Thursday and ran away.
Profiles in courage, those Republicans are. Very, very bold.
But it might be tough to get a deal no matter who is in the room for one simple reason. Republicans are now brazenly admitting they`re entirely unwilling to negotiate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MINORITY LEADER: Over the past several days, some have suggested in various news stories that the real goal of these talks is to devise a plan that satisfies one side by reducing the debt, and satisfies the other side by raising taxes. The suggestion here is that all — this is all just some quid pro quo exercise between the two parties. This is a dangerous trend, and it is wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Yes, that`s how negotiations work. You give something, they give something. What do you want? I want everything, and I want the Democrats to give everything to me, and I give nothing in return.
Come on, man. I get frustrated. How many times have we seen this?
The problem is that the Democrats encourage it. After reportedly giving away $2 trillion in spending cuts, they`re now suggesting that negotiations over tax cuts are just beginning.
The Democrats are now offering new concessions. Yesterday, Democratic Senator Max Baucus called for a deal that would include new taxes and “additional cuts to Medicare.” That is absolutely unbelievable.
You know, there`s another way to do this. When the Republicans say that the trillions in spending cuts don`t count, and they will offer nothing in return, you walk out. In fact, you kick them out of your office and you tell them, you know what? These talks are now over.
We will now take our case to the American people and tell them that you are protecting tax breaks for corporations, millionaires and billionaires who fund your campaigns. You are dirty, corrupt politicians who want to unload all of the country`s problems on the middle class.
In other words, here is the other alternative — you give them hell. When is the last time the Democrats did that? What, 30 years ago? Never?
You want to fight for our side? Anybody want to fight?
More concessions. Unbelievable.
All right, let`s bring in Ezra Klein, MSNBC contributor and a reporter for “The Washington Post.” He`s got a lot to say about how — why Cantor fled the budget talks and the gamble on America`s debt that both sides are making.
All right. Ezra, come on. Come on. Come on. Come on.
You give away $2 trillion and then you say, all right, now let`s talk about taxes? Can anybody be that stupid?
EZRA KLEIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I think if you look at their political side, they probably think they did a good job here.
KLEIN: Look at where the three sides are, right? On the one hand, you have the Republicans stomping out in a tantrum from the room. You have Mitch McConnell denying that what happens in politics is under any circumstance a negotiation. That is suddenly not allowed.
You have Eric Cantor saying the Democrats gave us everything we asked for and we decided to stop negotiating with them.
And you have Barack Obama — and this is important today — refusing to fire. Jay Carney and Barack Obama continued to sound conciliatory.
UYGUR: Of course!
KLEIN: So what they think will happen here, I mean, if you look at what their strategy is, they think that they`re going to look like the bipartisan guys. And when this debt ceiling thing actually begins to implode on itself because Republicans won`t come to an agreement on it, Republicans are going to be left holding the bag. That`s their plan.
UYGUR: No, no. Look, that`s always their plan. Their plan is, never fight back, and then give the Republicans almost everything they want, and sometimes even more, and then go, aren`t I so bipartisan? Well, I`m not interested in that plan, because in that plan, the middle class gets screwed again, and the rich pay none of the share again.
Look, here`s the thing. Ezra, if they said, like you said, hey, you know what, the Republicans are walking out, we seem like the reasonable guys, and the American people will side with us, but that presupposes that they play chicken, that they go to the end here.
But they`re not going to. You know it, right? The Democrats — who loses in a game of chicken between Democrats and Republicans? One million percent of the time, the Democrats. Right?
So they`re going to give in at the last moment and give the Republicans almost everything they want, aren`t they? That`s what happens every time. I would be shocked if anything else happened.
KLEIN: I think we`ll have to see.
So there are two bets here, right? The Republicans have bet that, as you say, Democrats will not go to the edge on this, they will not play chicken all the way to the end. And Democrats are betting, or at least hoping, that when they get to the end, that Republicans will have looked so bad for what they are doing, that the pressure on them will become unbearable.
What happened in `95, when Clinton and the Republicans went to a shutdown over the debt ceiling, was they almost got to the point where they stopped sending out Social Security checks. And as the Republicans realized seniors were going to blame them and they were going to take the heat in the next election, they broke on it.
And that is — if you look at the people the White House hired, it`s all those same people from the `90s. So that is certainly the playbook they are trying to run.
UYGUR: How has that playbook worked out for them so far?
KLEIN: I think opinions vary on that one.
UYGUR: Yes, they vary. No, every single time they are like, oh, boy, we have got the Republicans under pressure now because we have been so reasonable in giving them everything. And they`re going to have to buckle, right?
They have not buckled once. That is the world`s worst playbook.
1995? They might as well be going to an 1895 playbook. That is so outdated.
That`s not the same Republicans. They never give in. And these people don`t seem to understand negotiations.
But look, speaking of Republicans, there is an interesting twist here within the Republican Party. Eric Cantor walked out. That wasn`t just a negotiation tactic, right? There was also some internal strife.
What`s that about?
UYGUR: It really looks like that. Eric Cantor`s statement was fascinating.
He didn`t say, as Mitch McConnell did, as Jon Kyl did, these negotiations are going terribly, we don`t want to do taxes, we`re out. He said, at this point, I can`t cut the deal for you. You`re going to have to have Speaker Boehner do it.
And what he was doing there was he was passing the bag that Boehner put Cantor in these negotiations because Cantor is a conservative emissary in the Republican House leadership. He`s the guy who the Tea Party trusts.
And so, for Boehner to cut a deal and not have the Tea Party rebel against him, he needed Cantor to be there with him there to cut it. And Cantor got it right up to the point where conservatives would stop being happy, right up to the point you needed taxes. And he didn`t stay in that room and say we`re not being able to make a deal.
And he and Boehner didn`t come out together and make a statement. Cantor walked and said it`s up to Boehner now.
And so, if Boehner ends up cutting the deal, the Tea Party is going to turn on him, and it`s going to help clear the way for Cantor to be Speaker or minority leader in a couple of years. But either way, it`s not a real profile in courage on Eric Cantor`s part.
UYGUR: So, Ezra, that leads us to the last thing here, because when you get to Boehner — and I know Obama was supposed to soften him up by playing golf. Softening up Republicans. Anyway — OK.
So they get to Boehner, right? But look what Boehner has said about taxes before. Let`s roll it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOEHNER: Tax hikes are off the table. The American people don`t want us to raise taxes and they know that we`ve got a spending problem.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: So, what is Boehner going to do? Is he going to say, OK, yes, I was kidding, now we`re going to raise taxes, or is he just going to stick to his line and think that the White House will buckle because they have every other time?
KLEIN: I think he`s going to stick to his line.
Look, Boehner is — because of what Cantor did, and because of internal dynamics, Boehner is weak. And so Boehner came out immediately and said of course I won`t raise taxes.
What Boehner eventually needs to do, and what the Republicans eventually will probably have to do, is raise taxes in way that their people don`t agree is a tax increase, something like closing budget expenditures, loopholes and tax breaks. So far, in this negotiation, they`re not willing to do it. But at some point we`re going to have to cut some sort of a deal here.
And right now — and this is true on their political team — the White House thinks they have got a winning argument. As you know, tax hikes on the rich are a heck of a lot more popular than Medicare cuts. So they`re not particularly afraid, at least in theory, of bring this to the American people. The question ends up being how afraid they are of letting the debt ceiling collapse and do damage to the economy.
UYGUR: Right, which, of course, the will, at the end, say we can`t do it. We had to give in. They held the American people hostage. You know, we had the winning argument, we just didn`t use it.
How many times have I seen that movie? You look forward to it. I could be wrong. I won`t be, but let`s see what happens.
All right. Ezra Klein, MSNBC contributor and reporter for “The Washington Post.”
Very good reporting on this. Thank you.
KLEIN: Thank you.