Obama to Boehner: "You get nothing. I get that for free"

A report details the talks between the president and the speaker -- and finds Obama playing a stronger hand

Published December 23, 2012 3:15AM (EST)

  (AP/Carolyn Kaster)
(AP/Carolyn Kaster)

The Wall Street Journal has the behind-the-scenes account today of the chilly and contentious "fiscal cliff" talks between President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner.

In the piece, Obama comes across as emboldened post-election to push for a better deal than the debt ceiling "grand bargain" that collapsed during the summer of 2011. Boehner, meanwhile, wanted something in return if he agreed to raise income tax rates on those earning more than $1 million a year.

When Boehner asked Obama if they agree on a deal along the same lines as the one he walked away from during the 2011 talks, according to the paper, Obama retorted: "You missed your opportunity on that."

Obama's frustrations grew, and he told Boehner he would rail publicly against the Republicans in the absence of a reasonable compromise.

As the Journal reports:

Mr. Obama repeatedly lost patience with the speaker as negotiations faltered. In an Oval Office meeting last week, he told Mr. Boehner that if the sides didn't reach agreement, he would use his inaugural address and his State of the Union speech to tell the country the Republicans were at fault.

At one point, according to notes taken by a participant, Mr. Boehner told the president, "I put $800 billion [in tax revenue] on the table. What do I get for that?"

"You get nothing," the president said. "I get that for free."

Also during the talks, as Obama bristled over Boehner's unwillingness to budge on rates, the paper reports that he snapped: "You're asking me to accept Mitt Romney's tax plan. Why would I do that?"

When a possible deal fell apart Monday -- after Boehner moved toward accepting a rate increase on some higher earners, and Obama indicated a willingness to deal on Social Security -- Boehner moved to his "Plan B," which he ultimately pulled after it became clear his GOP caucus would not support it.

The House has now recessed until after Christmas, and the president is spending the holiday in Hawaii.

By David Daley

David Daley, former editor-in-chief of Salon, is the author of the national bestseller “Ratf**ked: Why Your Vote Doesn’t Count” and “Unrigged: How Americans Are Battling Back to Save Democracy.”

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Barack Obama Fiscal Cliff I Get That For Free John Boehner