NBC: To Get Fiscal Cliff Deal That Hikes Taxes, Boehner Must 'Sell It to the Far Right'

On Wednesday's NBC Today, political director Chuck Todd proclaimed that despite fiscal cliff negotiations being "in such a bad state," one bit of "good news" was that House Republicans "realize they don't have much leverage right now" and predicted they would eventually sign on to tax hikes proposed by President Obama. [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]

Moments later, co-host Savannah Guthrie declared: "Speaker John Boehner is probably in the most unenviable position because he has to get the deal, he has to sell it to the far right of his caucus in the House. Can he get that deal?"

Todd responded: "Well, he can if he's willing to go have the vote, have more Democrats bring it home at the end of the day, pass that legislation in the House, than Republicans....at this point it's about taking away some of the President's leverage, getting this done and living to fight another day."


Here is a full transcript of the December 5 segment:

7:08AM ET

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: And now we turn to the heated battle going on in Washington over how to avoid the fiscal cliff. Are lawmakers getting any closer to reaching a deal, with the deadline just over three weeks away? Let's go to Chuck Todd, who is NBC's political director, chief White House correspondent. Chuck, good morning.

CHUCK TODD: Good morning.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Splitting the Difference; Is There Room for Compromise on Fiscal Cliff?]

GUTHRIE: See you have your trusty iPad.

TODD: I do, I do, we'll mess around with it in a minute.

GUTHRIE: Okay, but first let's just get the state of the state. Where are the negotiations right now?

TODD: I would almost present this oddly as good news. They are in such a bad state that Republicans this morning are more and more talking about this idea of simply punting, in this respect, which means they would pass that bill. Remember, the President has talked about just pass the middle class tax rates, pass those, raise – which would automatically raise the tax rates on the top 2%. Pass that, then we'll negotiate more.

More and more Republicans realize they don't have much leverage right now. Go ahead and do that and then have a real negotiation for the next pivot point, which would be when the debt ceiling, when we hit our debt ceiling in two months. So it would be postponing this fight. So it's bad news they can't come up with a big deal, but the good news is Republicans are coming to this idea of, "You know what? We're not going to go over the cliff, so we'll postpone the fight."

GUTHRIE: Well, let's talk about the contours of a deal. The first graphic I know you have is what the President offered.

TODD: It is. This is 1.6 trillion in tax hikes, higher tax hikes, by the way, than he campaigned on. He campaigned on raising the top 2%, which is just 800 billion. Cuts in health care, this is Medicare and Medicaid, 350 billion. Additional deficit cuts of 250 billion, that includes farm subsidies, but he also asked for some spending, about $100 billion in spending.

Now let me take you to the Republican plan, half that in taxes, 800 billion. 600 billion in Medicare cuts and some to ObamaCare, they still want to get that politically. Other deficit cuts of 3 billion – 300 billion non-mandatory. And then they want to change Social Security's calculation, which would cause some – some recipients to see a cut.

But one thing we thought we'd do is, everybody says they're very far apart, they're not that far apart, Savannah.. If you split the difference, here's what it would look like, 1.2 trillion in tax rates, which means, by the way, the tax rates may not go all the way up to 39%, they could go down to 37%. You'd see about $500 billion in cuts in Medicare, you'd see an additional $275 billion in other cuts, like farm subsidies, you'd probably see that change in Social Security, but then you'd see the President get some of his spending.

GUTHRIE: But of course the politics are throughout this, and Speaker John Boehner is probably in the most unenviable position because he has to get the deal, he has to sell it to the far right of his caucus in the House. Can he get that deal?

TODD: Well, he can if he's willing to go have the vote, have more Democrats bring it home at the end of the day, pass that legislation in the House, than Republicans. I've talked to senior Republican leadership aides who have said to me, he is willing to go without, quote, "a majority of the majority," 240 Republicans. So that means he's willing to go with less than 120 votes, that he would go with even as few as 80 or 90, because at this point it's about taking away some of the President's leverage, getting this done and living to fight another day.

GUTHRIE: Alright, Chuck Todd with his iPad, thank you so much.

TODD: You bet.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC