During a five-appearance Sunday morning talk show blitz, Tim Geithner said that he believes that an agreement with congressional Republicans on how to avoid the fiscal cliff is possible, but acknowledged that “there’s going to be a lot of political theater” before a deal is reached. “This is something we can do,” he said on CNN’s State of the Union. “And I think we’re going to get there, because there’s too much at stake not to get there, not just for the American economy, but for the world economy.” He also took the opportunity to publicly dial up the pressure by repeatedly saying that the only thing that could prevent a deal would be a Republican refusal to increase tax rates for the wealthy. But, as he told NBC’s Meet the Press, “I don’t really see them doing that.”
In the spirit of political theater, John Boehner did an interview with Fox News Sunday during which he said, “Right now I would say we’re nowhere, period. We’re nowhere.” He also described himself as “flabbergasted” by the proposal Geithner showed him on Thursday. (To be fair, the offer — which called for $1.6 trillion in tax increases over the next ten years, $50 billion in infrastructure spending next year, extensions of the payroll tax cut and emergency unemployment benefits, and an end to congressional control over the debt ceiling — was pretty one-sided.) “I looked at him and said, ‘You can’t be serious,’” Boehner recounted. “I’ve just never seen anything like it. You know we’ve got seven weeks between Election Day and the end of the year, and three of those weeks have been wasted with this nonsense.”
Boehner went on to say that the GOP had come up with “a dozen different ways” to reduce the deficit without raising tax rates, though he declined to describe those proposals. Generally, the Republicans claim that limits on tax deductions and credits would provide the needed revenue, though the White House and others have said that, in order to raise enough money that way, popular deductions like those for mortgage interest and charitable contributions would have to end. They’ve called for cuts to Social Security as part of the solution, though President Obama said earlier this week that that discussion should happen after the fiscal cliff negotiations — a position Geithner reiterated on ABC’s This Week. “We’re prepared to, in a separate process, look at how to strengthen Social Security. But not as part of a process to reduce the other deficits the country faces.”
Basically, as Geithner put it to CBS’s This Week, Republicans “really are in a difficult position. And they’re going to have to figure out their politics of what they do next, and they’re trying to figure that out right now,” which means we have potentially weeks more of drama to look forward to. “I think we’re going over the cliff,” Lindsey Graham said in his own Face the Nation appearance. “I don’t think [the White House] is serious about finding a deal,” he added. Meanwhile, on Meet the Press, Grover Norquist suggested that C-Span document Obama’s meetings with congressional leaders so the American public can decide who is being more “reasonable” about the situation. “If the Republicans are being reasonable, we’ll see that. If they’re not, we’ll see that. Gotta have cameras in that room,” he said. While Norquist is indeed a media pro, that idea seems somewhat likely to backfire, but maybe he knows something no one else knows.