WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans are sending mixed signals in agreeing to meet with President Barack Obama for talks over the budget impasse, while Obama is conceding that a political accommodation may be impossible.
On the one hand, many Republicans who long have chided Obama for failing to engage their party on the nation's biggest problems are applauding his newfound outreach — part of a concerted effort by the president to mend ties with Congress in hopes of reaching a grand compromise on fiscal issues.
On the other hand, neither side is backing down from entrenched positions that have prevented deals in the past — a status quo scenario that Obama acknowledged could preclude any agreement.
To be sure, Obama is at least going into this phase of things without being deliberately ignorant of what the Republicans are up to, as he has insisted in the past:
President Obama says he's reaching out to Republicans, but isn't sure it will lead to a major budget deal.
"Ultimately, it may be that the differences are just too wide," Obama told ABC News.
The president added: "It may be that, ideologically, if their position is, 'We can't do any revenue,' or, 'We can only do revenue if we gut Medicare or gut Social Security or gut Medicaid,' if that's the position, then we're probably not going to be able to get a deal."
Thinking a little about this, there are points to be scored here. For one thing, Republicans, Inc. have insisted that Obama has ignored them and not tried to work with them...HA!...and now they are forced to give up that line of argument. So long as Obama makes a concerted effort to continue to pursue a deal. And he has to be long and loud in his oratory about it, making sure that he inoculates himself from the charge going forward.
There's also a case to be made for making a quick deal, to mitigate the impact of the sequester on Americans. Neither side really wants it to continue (except maybe Teabaggers but they are all but irrelevant in this phase of things...just see Rand Paul's ineffectual filibuster last week.)
The two plans can be outlined as follows: the Democrats want a balanced, rational plan that raises a few taxes mostly by closing loopholes and makes shallow cuts across the board.
The Republicans, Inc. plan of course freezes taxes at their current regressive levels, while making deep cuts in what are termed "entitlements." Indeed, Paul Ryan, the author of the plan, submitted a budget that makes almost precisely the same cuts to Social Security and Medicare (both off-budget items, by the way) that he claimed Obama proposed while campaigning against him.
Indeed, if anything, it goes Obama one better and crushes the poor of this nation in a distinctly unChristian-like fashion. God's watching, Paul. He can't be happy.
About the only mediation in the entire debacle is the fact that Senators McCain (R-etirement Home) and Graham (R-eally FABulous!) seem willing to work with Obama as a way of rubbing his nose in it that they derailed several Cabinet appointments.
The question there is, how thick is the President's skin?