President Obama plays hardball in ‘fiscal cliff’ talks

Opinion

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Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images News

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images News

ANALYSIS-President Obama is no longer looking to be the great compromiser in Washington.

His opening bid to resolve the so-called “fiscal cliff”  was effectively a poison pill; full of ideas from $50 billion in additional stimulus money to $1.6 trillion in tax increases to weakening Congress’ power in increasing the federal debt limit, it was a liberal‘s dream and a non-starter for congressional Republicans.

And it suggested the president may be employing a different, more assertive negotiating style in his second term.

During much of his first four years, Obama and his aides tried to craft policies that reflected both Democratic and Republican ideas, hoping to get GOP votes. It was sincere, but ineffective as a negotiating strategy. Republicans almost never voted with the president on anything anyway, and he was effectively dropping liberal ideas that he himself supported even before negotiations started with Republicans.

But now, Obama and his team are conceding nothing. They have demanded more than $1 trillion in taxes by raising rates on the rich and largely rejected the GOP theory that more tax revenue can be raised simply by closing loopholes.  They have largely refused to spell out any spending cuts as part of the agreement, putting the onus on the GOP to suggest cuts it is urging anyway.

The additional stimulus spending, which Obama has proposed for two years, is almost certainly not going to be in the final agreement, but it reflects a different style of negotiating: ask for exactly what you want and part of the compromise is giving up that idea.

This kind of hardball will be a test of both the president and congressional Republicans. If Republicans don’t back down, is Obama prepared to deal with the fallout from the stock market and businesses and everyday Americans if taxes go up for everyone in early January?

Do the Republicans want to risk taking the blame for that because they won’t back off their stance that wealthy Americans shouldn’t pay more in taxes, even as polls show the vast majority of Americans support tax increases on the rich?

And where does this Obama-style hardball go next?

Does he then insist on naming Susan Rice Secretary of State, despite GOP objections?

Follow Perry Bacon Jr. on Twitter at @perrybaconjr