Democrats and Republicans are haunted by memories of budget deals gone bad. It’s making it hard for them to put hope over experience and avert a looming fiscal disaster.
Long gone are the halcyon days when President Lyndon Johnson would meet frequently — sometimes daily — with Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen, R-Ill., to cut deals on civil rights and other top issues. Or the congenial after-hours rapport struck between President Ronald Reagan and House Speaker Thomas P. O’Neill.
President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner have been circling each over crippling automatic tax increases and spending cuts due to take effect in January.
They nearly struck a “grand bargain” on taxes and spending in 2011 but the deal blew up in their faces. Boehner couldn’t sell it to hardline GOP factions and the president was zinged by some liberals for going too far.
Republicans remember President George H.W. Bush’s 1990 backing of a bipartisan agreement that raised taxes. Bush saw it in the national interest but others saw it as a violation of his 1988 “Read my lips – no new taxes” campaign pledge. His reversal contributed to his re-election defeat.
Republicans also remember a budget dispute between President Bill Clinton and House Speaker Newt Gingrich that briefly shut down the government. Polls showed voters blamed Gingrich more than Clinton.
Obama and Boehner have made opening bids — on paper. It’s been nearly a week since they’ve talked directly, though their staffs stay in touch.
At a White House holiday party Monday night, Boehner avoided the photo line where members chat with the president and get their pictures taken.
Obama’s been pressing his case in other forums. On Tuesday, it was the nation’s governors.
“We better get together and get this done,” Republican Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said afterwards.
Follow Tom Raum on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/tomraum
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