President Obama wants to complete a grand bargain to reduce the deficit by the end of July, an aggressive timeline coinciding with the expiration of the nation’s debt limit.Bolton cites two unnamed senators who attended Wednesday's dinner along with a third source "familiar" with what was said during the meeting. There's really nothing new about the fact that President Obama wants a Grand Bargain—he has been telling that to anybody who will listen for the last two years. But even if July is a new target or deadline, it's hard to take it seriously, given how many deadlines have already come and gone.
Obama told a small group of Republican senators who had dinner with him Wednesday evening that a deficit-reduction deal needs to happen in the next four to five months, according to three sources familiar with the meeting.
A GOP lawmaker who met with Obama said the accelerated timeline has two advantages. Reaching a broad deficit deal by August would allow the president to avoid another messy standoff over raising the debt limit. The president, who has said he will not negotiate on the debt limit, believes it will be harder to forge a major deal in September and beyond, as both parties begin to position themselves for the 2014 mid-term election.
Pursuing a Grand Bargain during a weak economy is absolutely the wrong priority and the president shouldn't be focused on it, but the reason it hasn't happened has nothing to do with the calendar and instead has everything to do with Republicans. During his press conference about the sequester last Friday, the president said that he hoped a deal would be possible in the the future, whether in a "couple of weeks" or a "couple of months." But he also said a deal can't be reached unless Republicans back off their no-revenue stance.
Given that the issue is Republicans, not the calendar, July just seems like another arbitrary date. It doesn't matter whether we're talking about next week or next month or next year, unless Republicans change their tune on revenue, there can be no Grand Bargain—by definition. Given that there's nothing Obama can say that will change their minds, he might as well stop obsessing over it and move on to other things. If Republicans want a deal, they'll come to him. But unless that happens, he should spend his time talking about other stuff on his agenda: immigration reform, guns, and (dare I say it!) a plan for investing in America's infrastructure and creating jobs.