A Breakdown Of Who Wants What In The "Grand Bargain... Or Bust" Soap Opera

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Still don't have your playbill for the latest installment of beltway Kabuki? Confused by what each actor's motivations are in the "great compromise" farce? Here is The Hill with a summary of who wants what so that the race for this year's Nobel prize in most dramatic on screen teleprompted performance is no longer confusing to anyone, especially since the Treasury Secretary is applying for the Nobel prize for most clueless assorter hanger on, with his "we have no Plan B" approach to worst case contingencies.

BARACK OBAMA

Obama wants a grand bargain. But even as he
reiterated this preference at a White House news conference Friday, he
noted that the fallback option offered by Senate Minority Leader Mitch
McConnell (R-Ky.) could be a “constructive” way “to at least avert
Armageddon.”

If the McConnell proposal forms the basis for an
eventual deal, Obama may emerge from the negotiations relatively
unscathed, at least in the short term.

He seemed to be in a weaker
position than Republican leaders just weeks or even days ago. But as
the possibility of default loomed and the president increasingly used
his bully pulpit to cast himself as a reasonable leader frustrated by
Republican intransigence, the ground shifted in his favor.

This
was the soil in which the McConnell plan germinated. Obama may
ultimately grab it, albeit in the knowledge that shouldering full
responsibility for debt-ceiling increases carries electoral peril next
year.

 

MITCH McCONNELL

McConnell’s initial announcement of his plan had all the buoyancy of a lead balloon among the conservative grassroots.

Hardliners
are still unappeased but the idea has unquestionably gained traction —
not least because of the lack of viable alternatives as the deadline
approaches.
One of the major questions is how much — or, rather, how
little — Republican support it is likely to attract in the House.
Significant Democratic support will almost certainly be needed to keep
it alive.

Even if the plan fails, however, McConnell has
solidified his reputation with all but the most strident of his Senate
colleagues. Many GOP members in the upper chamber are deeply unhappy
with what they see as the cavalier approach of their House colleagues.

 

JOHN BOEHNER

The
Speaker’s standing was diminished when he first seemed to clamber on
board Obama’s “grand bargain” train, and then had to disembark in the
face of opposition from within his own conference. He has also had to
contend with Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) becoming the public
face and voice of House conservatives during negotiations.

Boehner will have to play at the top of his game as negotiations move
toward a conclusion. Another stumble could raise serious questions about
his leadership.

But the Speaker has not survived this long
on Capitol Hill without versatile political skills. In particular, his
willingness to let Cantor move to center stage may rebound to his
advantage, especially as his rival ponders whether to back a deal that
will almost certainly involve painful concessions.

 

NANCY PELOSI & HARRY REID

Pelosi
has been more forceful than either President Obama or her House
colleague and sometime rival Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) in
defending social programs beloved by Democrats.

Several
accounts paint her as more willing to compromise behind the scenes,
however, so long as Republicans have to share the pain, too. (“A pimple
on your nose is different than a pimple on an elephant’s ass,” was how
she put it during one meeting, according to the Wall Street Journal.)

Reid,
meanwhile, has done what Reid does: work behind the scenes on the
details of a deal (some modified version of the McConnell plan), while
throwing barbs across the aisle, as when he called Cantor “childish” and
said that he “shouldn’t be at the table.”

 

ERIC CANTOR

The
good news for Cantor: he has upped his national profile and enhanced
his standing with his conservative colleagues by playing such an
assertive role.

The bad news: he faces some challenging days ahead, whatever way things play out.

If
he chooses not to accept a deal, Democrats will redouble their efforts
to portray him as the poster boy of Republican inflexibility.

There is also still doubt about what Cantor would accept, short of the conservative ideal. No one seems to know.

Still,
assaults on Cantor, including from Reid, may burnish his status, both
within the party and with grassroots supporters beyond the Beltway.

 

CONSERVATIVE ACTIVISTS

Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform seems more amenable to a McConnell compromise than might have been expected.

“I think there is an argument for a back-up,” Norquist told The Hill. “I like [McConnell’s] approach.”

Norquist added: “Look, there is going to be an election in 2012. We don’t have to change the world between now and 2012.”

FreedomWorks,
an organization closely associated with the Tea Party was, perhaps
predictably, more scathing of the McConnell plan and of the overall
process.

“We denounced the McConnell plan when the ink was still
wet,” Dean Clancy, the group’s legislative counsel, told The Hill
proudly.

“The White House talks are a sham because the president
is not really interested in a deal,” he said. “We think he wants a
government crisis that he can blame on Republicans.”

 

LIBERAL ACTIVISTS

On the left, disappointment with Obama now wears only the thinnest of veils.

Damon
Silvers, policy director at the AFL-CIO, told The Hill that “our
members are looking for leaders who care about the things that matter to
them.”

Asked whether they were finding such leaders, Silvers laughed wryly and said, “Every day is a new day.”

Max
Richtman of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and
Medicare told The Hill that his organization’s “level of concern was
elevated dramatically when the White House raised Social Security as
being part of a grand bargain.”

Many liberals were actually
relieved when the idea of a grand bargain was capsized by Republican
opposition. But the fluidity of the negotiations continues to cause
heartburn.

“If I’m optimistic now, I might be pessimistic in 10 minutes’ time,” Richtman said.