White House’s Opening Offer Excludes New Defense Cuts

President Obama (center) with House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio (left), and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. (right), during a Nov. 16 White House meeting about the fiscal cliff. (Olivier Douliery/White House Pool via Bloomberg via Getty Images)

One side in the fiscal cliff talks appears to have found a path to the necessary $1.6 trillion deficit-reduction target that avoids additional tax cuts: the White House.

The Obama administration on Thursday sent a two-step fiscal cliff-avoidance plan to lawmakers that, according to reports, calls for the “deferral” of twin $500 billion cuts to domestic and defense spending that are slated to kick in Jan. 2 if no broader deficit-cutting package is approved.

That delay – the length of time appears to be unspecified – would come in phase one, during which the White House proposes a number of tax-rate hikes for the wealthiest Americans, other new taxes, a number of tax cuts and reforms, unspecified entitlement program reforms, and several other ideas.

In the proposed second phase, Congress and the White House would tackle major federal tax reform, while implementing entitlement program proposals included in the president’s 2013 budget plan.

The plan appears a mere opening offer. As NBC’s Chuck Todd has been saying all week, the fiscal cliff talks are still in the posturing phase.

Todd is right, of course. The last few years have taught us that when the Congress and White House are tasked with striking a major fiscal or federal-spending deal, an imperfect solution has emerged in the final hours. All indications are the fiscal cliff negotiations will move to a more serious stage in a few weeks.

For now, the upshot for the defense sector is this: The Obama administration is not insisting on additional Pentagon budget cuts at the start of negotiations.

But don’t think the White House plan is going anywhere. It was widely rejected by congressional Republicans.

One GOP aide told CBS News the White House plan is “a joke” and “an insult.”

And Boehner told reporters Thursday that “no substantive progress has been made in the talks between the White House and the House over the last two weeks.”

John T. Bennett

John T. Bennett

Bennett is the Editor of Defense News' CongressWatch channel. He has a Masters degree in Global Security Studies from Johns Hopkins University.
John T. Bennett