We had an agreement on a revenue number. A revenue number that we thought we could reach based on a flatter tax code with lower rates and a broader base. [...] There was an agreement, some additional revenues, until yesterday when the president demanded $400 billion more which was going to be nothing more than a tax increase on the American people
John Boehner yesterday, addressing House Republicans in a letter to individual members of Congress:
Along with Majority Leader Cantor, I have also engaged the president in a dialogue in recent days. [...] During these discussions -- as in my earlier discussions -- it became evident that the White House is simply not serious about ending the spending binge that is destroying jobs and endangering our children's future. A deal was never reached, and was never really close.
So, they "had an agreement" on revenue when Boehner was speaking to the nation, but they were "never really close" to a deal when Boehner was speaking to House Republicans. Hmmm. Could both statements possibly be accurate, if not altogether true?
Perhaps the answer is to be found in the qualifying language Boehner used to describe the alleged "agreement" on revenue. It was, he said, an agreement on "a number that we thought we could reach based on a flatter tax code with lower rates and a broader base."
There's a big difference between identifying a number you think you can reach and actually agreeing to plan on how you will actually achieve that number. So Boehner's statements aren't as incompatible as they may have initially seemed: agreeing to a number is not the same as reaching a deal.
But even if Boehner's statements were part of the same truth, they were clearly designed to emphasize different aspects of it. Speaking to a national audience, he sought to emphasize his willingness to raise revenue. Speaking to his fellow House Republicans, he sought to emphasize his unwillingness to compromise.
One other point: Boehner said that the White House had "moved the goalpost" by insisting on $400 billion in additional revenue beyond tax reform. But if they moved the goalpost with that figure, they moved it in Boehner's direction. The key thing here is that there's two components to Obama's revenue plan; one was tax reform, the other was ending the Bush tax cuts on the wealthy. Ending those upper-income tax cuts completely would save something like $1 trillion, so in offering $400 billion, Obama was making a substantial concession. But John Boehner still couldn't bring himself to say yes.