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Wednesday's New York Times poses the question of whether House Speaker John Boehner can get his caucus behind any fiscal cliff curb deal.
Both men and their advisers continued on Tuesday to be silent on the leaders’ private discussions, which many in both parties took as a sign of potential progress. But the speaker sought to turn up the public pressure on Mr. Obama—and dispel the sense of progress, Republican aides said—with his blast before the C-Span cameras.

“Where are the spending cuts?” Mr. Boehner asked. “The longer the White House slow walks this process, the closer our economy gets to the fiscal cliff.”

His statement seemed directed as much at Republican lawmakers and party activists—to reassure them that he was fighting the good fight against government spending, given Republicans’ likely concessions on taxes—as at the president and the broader public.

Conservatives have been growing nervous about any deal with Mr. Obama. “I have great respect for the speaker,” said Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the senior Republican on the Budget Committee, “but he doesn’t have my proxy."

There's the other side of this, though. If Boeher can't rely on the support of a big majority of his caucus, he's going to have to get Democratic votes. That also means the president might have to rely on Democratic votes. If he means it when he says "we are prepared to do some tough things on the spending side," in return for Republicans relenting on tax hikes, it depends on what those tough things are. If it's, for example, hiking the Medicare eligibility age, he's going to have a problem in both the House and the Senate.

House progressives are adamantly opposed to that proposal, and in a statement released Wednesday on behalf of the progressive caucus say they "will not accept any measures that would take away health care coverage from our grandparents.”

Senate progressives agree, according to Oregon's Sen. Jeff Merkley in an interview with Greg Sargent.

“The overwhelming sense was that this would be absolutely unacceptable,” Merkley told me. Of the President, Merkley added: “I can’t imagine he is seriously considering it.”

In fact, it is not clear to what degree Obama is considering it. In an interview with ABC News he declined to rule it out, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. However, Merkley said it’s a good idea for liberals to spell out now their feelings on the issue. Speaking of the ABC interview, he said: “If this is a trial balloon, it’s a lead balloon.”

The fact that President Obama holds most of the cards in this debate, and Republicans realize it, also isn't lost on progressive Democrats. They're very aware of the options that Obama has in negotiating this, and what they have room to agree, or refuse to agree, on. That's particularly true if Boehner is going to end up relying on Democratic votes to pass anything in the House.

Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Wed Dec 12, 2012 at 11:48 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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