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Boehner rejects Obama budget, sight unseen

There's a lot of distance between them.
There's a lot of distance between them.Getty Images

President Obama will formally unveil his budget plan next week, just as Congress returns from its spring recess, and it will include a familiar offer: the White House is still ready to trade entitlement "reforms" for tax revenue from closed loopholes and deductions.

And if you're a progressive who strongly opposes changes to Social Security and Medicare, I have good news for you: House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) hasn't seen Obama's new budget, but he's already rejecting it out of hand.

House Speaker John Boehner immediately dismissed President Barack Obama's package of significant new entitlement cuts tied to new tax revenues, calling them "no way to lead and move the country forward." [...]

"The president got his tax hikes on the wealthy with no corresponding spending cuts," Boehner said. "At some point we need to solve our spending problem...."

And the Speaker got his $1.5 trillion in spending cuts with no corresponding revenue in August 2011. I wonder why Boehner continues to struggle with the basics of the fiscal debate, as if he just weren't paying attention to the details. Presumably, the nation's most powerful Republican lawmaker would have an easier time keeping up on current events.

In any case, I found it especially interesting that Boehner told reporters this morning, "If the president believes these modest entitlement savings are needed to help shore up these programs, there's no reason they should be held hostage for more tax hikes,"

That's actually an amusing, albeit familiar, trick. Boehner has effectively told the president, "You need to put Medicare and Social Security cuts on the table." So Obama is now responding, "Fine, I'll accept Medicare and Social Security cuts if you accept revenue." To which Boehner is now responding, "Now that we agree on Medicare and Social Security cuts, there's no need for revenue."

In other words, Obama is offering to trade one thing for another, while Boehner wants to look at the offer as a gift.

And if it sounds like the House Speaker is being deliberately irresponsible, and almost comically obtuse, that's because he is.

Let's also not forget that Boehner is rejecting a budget plan, sight unseen, that reflects the demands Boehner and his party have already made in the recent past. As Greg Sargent explained:

The curious thing about this is that Republicans previously said they wanted these things as proof that Obama is “serious” about cutting spending. In late December, a Boehner aide told Bloomberg News that the Speaker wanted Chained CPI more than other entitlement cuts, such as raising the Medicare eligibility age, as the two were negotiation over a possible cuts-for-revenues swap to avert the fiscal cliff.

And in late November, Mitch McConnell explicitly told the Wall Street Journal that if Obama offered entitlement changes such as Chained CPI and Medicare means testing, Republicans would consider new revenue. He actually said this: “those are the kinds of things that would get Republicans interested in new revenue.”

And wouldn't you know it, the moment the president accepted this rhetoric at face value is the moment Republicans decided they have a new series of demands.

I'm not suggesting the changes Obama has offered to social-insurance programs are unimportant, but so long as Republicans continue to move the goalposts and refuse to even consider concessions, the Medicare and Social Security "reforms" are going nowhere fast.