Earlier today, I reported that Speaker John Boehner is interested in crafting a ”grand bargain” on fiscal issues, perhaps as part of a debt-limit agreement. House Republicans tell me he quietly made this known in a series of small meetings on Wednesday afternoon. After the story posted, the emails came fast, including this one from a senior Democratic source, who said Boehner also talked about the idea at the White House on Wednesday night.
Boehner raised the prospect of a grand bargain-type deal at the White House meeting and was laughed at because everyone feels like they’ve heard this song and dance before. The general feeling is, if he’s really ready to make some tough choices – read, revenue – then great. But the history of this from where we sit is Boehner talking a big game, then bailing as soon as he runs into the inevitable resistance from a certain faction in his caucus. So we will believe it when we see it, but are proceeding under the assumption that this is just more of the same big talk, no walk.
Boehner may have been “laughed at,” but that doesn’t mean the pitch is dead, at least according to House insiders. In conversations late Wednesday, several of them said it remains one of the best options for Boehner, who is struggling to balance the pressure to compromise with his conference’s conservative bent. On a personal level, sources said, he’s still be upbeat about the prospect of using his CR conferees as negotiators on a broader package — even if Democrats are initially resistant. The involvement of budget chairman Paul Ryan, the House’s conservative power broker, is another reason it’s more than whimsy.