Is everything we know about the budget negotiations coming from the mouths of Democrats and also wrong?
“Yes,” said Michael Steel spokesman for Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner.
But the question is why Boehner and other Republicans aren’t providing their own account of the talks.
Throughout the debate this week on the pending government shutdown, Democrats have consistently defined the narrative about what is taking place in negotiations between top party leaders by supplying details about those talks to the press.
For instance, information about the how big the spending cuts offered by each side, as well all the information about Planned Parenthood being the last remaining sticking point in talks, has all come from the mouths of Democrats.
“What Sen. Reid said is not true. There is no agreement on spending cuts or policy,” Steel said in one representative denial.
On a conference call with reporters defending a policy rider to defund Planned Parenthood that is, according to Boehner, not the main sticking point of the negotiations (Democrats say it is), top-ranking conservative Rep. Jim Jordan said in an hour and a half conference meeting earlier today GOP lawmakers were given “no” details about the status of a long list of policy riders in the negotiations.
Many high-level aides confirm they know no details about the talks. The circle of people who do know anything first-hand on the Republican side is exceedingly small.
Asked why the leader of his party would provide members no information about the negotiations, Jordan said, “my assumption is he told Sen. Reid that would be the case … I don’t know.”
It makes no sense Boehner would agree to remain silent while Reid and Obama enjoy open season on Republicans with the details.
One explanation given by GOP aides is that if Boehner confirmed details about concessions he had made in the discussions, it would give the right flank of his conference time and space to mobilize against those concessions, undermining his ability to negotiate.
This scenario is similar and yet quite distinct from the account of top Democrats like Sen. Chuck Schumer, New York Democrat, who are blasting Boehner for being held “captive” by the Tea Party.
In Schumer’s account, House conservatives are actively pressuring Boehner not to concede. It looks more and more like instead they are completely in the dark.
Another view is, if Reid hasn’t conceded to a number Boehner could sell Republicans, what would the purpose be in telling them details, which would just provoke the caucus that will eventually need to settle on a compromise.
Steel said about the dynamic, “We are working for the largest possible spending cuts to help the private sector create more American jobs, and we will get the largest spending cuts possible by negotiating at the negotiating table – not in the press.”