The Price of Politics
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See how and why Washington is not functioning.
Bob Woodward’s freshly reported, thirty-five-page Afterword to his national bestseller, The Price of Politics, provides a detailed, often verbatim account of what happened in the dramatic “fiscal cliff” face-off at the end of 2012 between President Obama and the Republicans.
Now it’s happening again. In fall 2013, Washington faces a new round of budget and fiscal wars that could derail the American and global economies.
“We are primarily a blocking majority,” said Michael Sommers, Speaker John Boehner’s chief of staff, summarizing the House Republican position.
It was the land of no-compromise:
On health care cuts over ten years, Boehner suggested to Obama, you are $400 billion, I’m at $600 billion. “Can we split the difference here? Can we land at $500 billion?”
“Four hundred billion is it,” Obama replied. “I just can’t see how we go any further on that.”
After making $120 billion in other concessions, Obama pleaded with Boehner, “What is it about the politics?”
“My guys just aren’t there,” Boehner replied.
“We are $150 billion off, man. I don’t get it. There’s something I don’t get.”
The Price of Politics chronicles the inside story of how President Obama and the U.S. Congress tried, and failed, to restore the American economy and set it on a course to fiscal stability. Woodward pierces the secretive world of Washington policymaking once again, with a close-up story crafted from meeting notes, documents, working papers, and interviews with key players, including President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner. Woodward lays bare the broken relationship between President Obama and the Congress.
the ceiling. Plouffe found the projections harrowing. If that was his reaction, he wondered, how acutely was the president feeling it? As best Plouffe could tell, it was as if Obama had been seared. A number of those in the Oval Office that day felt their stomachs turn to knots. • • • In an interview, Obama later said he had recognized that the stakes were high, which was why he and his advisers rejected ideas such as the 14th Amendment option.234 “I am not prepared to put the country in a
because of “higher-than-expected revenues and an increase in payments to the Treasury by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.” In a single year the deficit had gone down $200 billion, at a time when the president and Boehner had been haggling over a $150 billion difference over 10 years. I recalled one of the most vivid lines from the negotiations: “We are $150 billion off, man,” Obama had said to Boehner. “I don’t get it. There’s something I don’t get.” There are some things the president and Boehner
to reporters: Manu Raju, “Harry Reid: Deal Must Have Revenues,” Politico, July 21, 2011, http://www.politico.com. 194 “Geithner has two concerns,” the president later recalled: On the record author interview with President Barack Obama, July 11, 2012. 195 In an interview, Boehner, who was consulting notes: On the record author interview with Speaker John Boehner, June 7, 2012. 196 Obama later told me that he presented the speaker: On the record author interview with President Barack Obama,
Boehner had a 94 percent: Michael Barone and Chuck McCutcheon, Almanac of American Politics 2012 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011). 276 “I don’t know whether it’s him”: On the record author interview with Speaker John Boehner, June 7, 2012. 277 “I think John wanted to get a deal” the president said to me: On the record author interview with President Barack Obama, July 11, 2012. 278 “And I’m sure as hell going to do something about it”: On the record author interview with Speaker
to sell it for him. Ron Klain also sensed the grief in the room, and he knew it wasn’t just the result of giving in on a fundamental tax issue. The sorrow was amplified by the recent election results. Pelosi—just two years earlier the first female speaker of the House—was suddenly going to be minority leader. They would all be moving to smaller offices, giving up committee chairmanships and the larger staffs and status that come with being “Mr. Chairman.” And for the 63 Democrats who had either