For those of you who just can’t get enough of the eleventh-, twelfth- and even thirteenth-hour negotiations that ultimately brought the nation back on the safer side of the fiscal cliff, Politico is out this morning with a lengthy tick-tock about how the deal got done.
The quadruple bylined, 2,500-odd word story has plenty of little nuggets about how the sausage got made, but it’s the anecdote that kicks things off that is sure to have the most people talking, if no other reason that it nicely sums up the state of bipartisanship that was on display in the Capitol for much of 2012:
House Speaker John Boehner couldn’t hold back when he spotted Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in the White House lobby last Friday. It was only a few days before the nation would go over the fiscal cliff, no bipartisan agreement was in sight, and Reid had just publicly accused Boehner of running a “dictatorship” in the House and caring more about holding onto his gavel than striking a deal.
“Go f— yourself,” Boehner sniped as he pointed his finger at Reid, according to multiple sources present.
Reid, a bit startled, replied: “What are you talking about?”
Boehner repeated: “Go f— yourself.”
The harsh exchange just a few steps from the Oval Office — which Boehner later bragged about to fellow Republicans — was only one episode in nearly two months of high-stakes negotiations laced with distrust, miscommunication, false starts and yelling matches as Washington struggled to ward off $500 billion in tax hikes and spending cuts.
You can check out the full story here for all the wonky details of the myriad offers and counter-offers. But what really jumps out in the narrative is just how fractured and unhappy much of Washington is right now (along with just how willing lawmakers and aides are to offer up juicy anecdotes to Washington reporters to illustrate that point).
Some of the tension was to be expected, of course: House Speaker John Boehner and President Obama were obviously coming into this whole thing on opposite sides, as were Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell. But as talks dragged on, even intra-party relationships began to fray, as they apparently did at least temporarily between the president and Harry Reid:
Obama pushed forward despite strong reservations expressed by top congressional Democrats — especially Reid — who privately described it as a “bad deal” that would increase Republican leverage in future budget fights. …
Reid figured Democrats could get a more favorable agreement if they waited. When Reid saw an offer that Obama had considered pitching to McConnell on Sunday, which included provisions opposed by Senate Democrats, the majority leader crumpled up the document and tossed it into the burning fireplace of his Capitol office.
[Weigel has more on the House GOP dysfunction here].
The “good” news, of course, is that despite no one being very happy during the entire thing, enough people ultimately came together to get a deal done. The bad, however, is that Washington now enters 2013 with that much more baggage at a time when the next fight over the debt ceiling looms, along with potential action (or at least debate) on immigration and gun control, along with more regular legislative business.