Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh encouraged GOP lawmakers to take the existing game of political brinksmanship regarding the fiscal cliff and bring it to its next logical step: Backing out of negotiations with President Barack Obama entirely.
"The way to handle that, the way to call his bluff on this is to not negotiate with him and leave it up to him what happens," he said. "Very publicly walk away from the talks so that whatever happens vis-à-vis the cliff is perceived to happen -- well, the real point will be to flush Obama out, find out. I would suggest to people who really believe Obama is concerned about his second term and his legacy -- he doesn't want a recession -- the only way to flush that out is to come dangerously close to allowing it all to happen."
Limbaugh isn't alone in his assessment that Republicans have little to gain from engaging with Obama and Democrats on crafting a deal that would avert the fiscal cliff. Earlier this week, former GOP Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich advised congressional Republicans to "back out of all of this negotiating with Obama." And conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer suggested Thursday that they "simply walk away" from the bargaining table.
While Republicans haven't yet heeded this advice, they have repeatedly sounded glib about the lack of progress on finding an agreement.
On Thursday, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner presented Obama's proposal to Republicans, outlining a plan with $1.6 trillion in new tax revenue over the coming decade, a new round of stimulus spending and a loosely outlined $400 billion in cuts to entitlement programs to be negotiated next year. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) reportedly laughed out loud at the blueprint, while other Republicans responded angrily to what was contained in it.
Despite the outrage, the offer was actually presented to them earlier this month by President Barack Obama at the White House, according to a well-placed Democratic source, and confirmed by two GOP sources involved in the talks.
What surprised Republicans wasn't the newest offer, but who delivered it. The original offer, delivered by Obama, simply wasn't taken seriously. Republicans assumed that Obama's initial offer floated to congressional leaders would go like many others he's made in the past, and quickly soften amid staff talks. That seemed to be happening, which left them taken by surpise by Geithner. Acknowledging that Thursday's offer was essentially the same as the one presented by the president, a GOP aide said that White House "staff has been back-channeling flexibility up until now. This was the first time their staff echoed his fantasyland numbers." A second senior GOP aide called Thursday's offer "a more detailed version" of Obama's. "The day after the White House meeting, we gave them our framework. It took them 10 days for them to give us theirs and it didn't reflect any of the conversations we have had since then," he said.