Comparing The Plans In The Debt Debate
MARY LOUISE KELLY, Host:
OK. With us now, for some analysis of this standoff, is NPR's national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Hey, Mara.
MARA LIASSON: Hi, Mary Louise.
LOUISE KELLY: So, help us understand how far apart the two sides really are at this point. I mean, first of all, both the Democrat and the Republican plans would make spending cuts. Are they in agreement on what should be cut?
LIASSON: But the most important thing to say about both of these plans is that both of them kick the can down the road, because neither of them make big structural changes in entitlements or do tax reform.
LOUISE KELLY: You know, there was a point, toward the end of last week, where it actually looked as though the president and Speaker Boehner were close to some sort of comprehensive deal. Is that now completely dead?
LIASSON: But last night, the country heard two political speeches laying blame, not searching for compromise with each other or laying out any new solutions, both leaders just restated their cases. And I don't know if that's what Americans expected to hear when they heard the president was giving an unusual nighttime televised address.
LOUISE KELLY: Yeah, as you say, they both restated their cases and it sounds as though after all these weeks of dueling and standoffs, they're still where they were. The president still wants some sort of grand bargain. Speaker Boehner and House Republicans have already walked away from that time, several times already.
LIASSON: But divided government only works if there's a will to make grand bargains, or even little bargains. And last night, it seems like no bargain is anywhere in sight. Speaker Boehner may not even have the support in his own caucus, yet, for his plan. Many conservatives are rejecting it for not going far enough. And Harry Reid's plan doesn't look like it has anywhere near the 60 votes it needs to pass the Senate.
LOUISE KELLY: So is it - I mean, can you even say at this point, who seems to be winning this fight after all these weeks?
LIASSON: Well, on substance you'd have to say the Republicans. Each time that they've laid down the demand, they've prevailed. First, when the president wanted a clean debt ceiling bill, they said no. They said it had to be linked to spending cuts, they won on that. Then they wanted dollar for dollar cuts for the amount they were raising the debt ceiling by. They got that. Now, in this latest iteration, they're demand that the bills contain no revenues, that seems to be prevailing, neither the Reid Plan or The Boehner Plan has any revenues. But, Republicans have paid a big price for this in the polls. Their numbers are much worse than the president on these issues. The president, on the other hand, seems to be winning the argument, but maybe not the debate. The polls show that the American people prefer his approach, his balanced approach that include tax hikes on the wealthy, but that doesn't seem to be giving him any leverage with Republicans in Washington.
LOUISE KELLY: Yeah, I mean, as you say, the President Obama said last night, Americans are fed up. Are our voters going to hold one side more responsible than other, do you think? And we've only got a few more seconds left.
LIASSON: Well, polls show that more people would blame the Republicans if there's s a default, but I think that may be misleading. Republicans might get the blame, but it I think the president will be punished because he needed the deal the most. If there's a downgrade of U.S. government credit rating, which seems likelier than ever now, the damage to the economy will be damage, politically, to him.
LOUISE KELLY: Thanks, Mara.
LIASSON: Thank you.
LOUISE KELLY: That's NPR National Political Correspondent Mara Liasson.
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