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Who Will End Up with Heartburn?

The president breaks bread with Republicans.

Mar 18, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 26 • By FRED BARNES
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Obama, however, does have a case for a $76 billion boost in taxes from tax reform. That would be raised by erasing tax credits for GE, Hollywood, and other corporate interests, credits the White House imposed as part of the fiscal cliff agreement. If Obama wants to use the $76 billion for deficit reduction, he’s entitled to.

The president must also give up a bad habit from past talks: walking away from things he’d agreed to. He reneged on increasing the age of eligibility for Medicare and slashing $100 billion from Medicaid, and he jettisoned his own plan for means-testing Medicare.

One more thing. The White House has endorsed a return to “regular order” in Congress. After refusing to draft a budget since 2009, much less pass one, the Senate Democrats have finally relented, and their budget is due to be released this week. Whatever his own budget, Obama should be prepared to advise Democrats to enact a Senate plan that’s a credible basis for compromise when they confer with Republicans.

This is important. Given their ideological inclinations, Senate Democrats favor tax hikes and spending cuts that won’t occur until the “out years,” 5 to 10 years from now. In an era of large deficits and a potential debt crisis, such a budget wouldn’t pass the smell test.

All this would be asking a lot of Obama, who may want a few guarantees from Republicans before negotiating. But it’s Obama who stepped forward to connect with Republicans. As president, he is obligated to lead. And for once, he might.

Fred Barnes is executive editor of The Weekly Standard.

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