After wining and dining a group of GOP senators whom he hopes to recruit for a budget a “grand bargain,” President Obama turned right around and invited Paul Ryan over to the White House for lunch.
GOP senators, sure. A lot of them have expressed a willingness to trade new taxes for entitlement cuts, including Lindsey Graham, who organized the affair. But where does Paul Ryan, the grand bargain’s very own Grim Reaper, fit into the picture?
A source tells Glenn Thrush that “[b]y speaking directly with Ryan, Obama is hoping to enlist a powerful ally in convincing leadership to abandon its insistence on subjecting all future measures on the debt, deficit, taxes and entitlement reform to ‘regular order,’ the tortuous committee process dominated by party conservatives, according to a person close to the process.”
That all sounds technical and boring, but if Obama’s charm offensive actually works, it’ll prove crucial. After the fiscal cliff fight, Boehner promised his members he wouldn’t conduct private legislative negotiations with Obama, and would move all fiscal policy — indeed all House business — through the arduous regular order Thrush describes above.
What his source is saying, I think, is that Boehner’s promise could become a big problem for Obama in the coming weeks or months. If Obama can somehow convince a dozen Senate Republicans to vote for a bill that closes tax loopholes and cuts Medicare/Social Security, he’ll need the House to work around the blue slip issue and bring it to the floor. Which would mean asking Boehner to abandon regular order.
It sounds like Obama’s trying to lay the groundwork for that request by feeling out Paul Ryan. If Ryan’s open to circumventing regular order on the condition that Obama cuts a deal with GOP senators, then maybe this hypothetical plan won’t hit a brick wall in Boehner’s House.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at email@example.com.