Discuss as:

First Thoughts: A laughing matter?

Is the White House’s offer really a laughing matter?... It seems to be sending two messages to Republicans: 1) accepting the middle-class tax extension is less painful than the other proposals, and 2) you need to drag us to entitlement reform… Obama hits the road, delivering remarks on the fiscal negotiations in Hatfield, PA at 12:05 pm ET… Ted Cruz and 2016?... VA GOP blasts Bolling… And “Meet” to interview Geithner on Sunday.

*** A laughing matter? After Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner’s individual meetings yesterday with congressional leaders in the so-called “fiscal cliff” negotiations, Republicans leaked to reporters what the Obama White House is offering: 1) $1.6 trillion in tax increases and revenues, 2) a permanent end to Congress’ control of the debt limit, 3) additional stimulus of at least $50 billion, and 4) $400 billion in savings in Medicare and other programs to be worked out next year. Republican aides dismissed the offer as “unbalanced” and “unreasonable,” NBC’s Luke Russert notes. A House GOP aide adds to First Read that the $1.6 trillion is TWICE the revenue that President Obama campaigned on (by not extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy); that the debt-limit demand is a “pipe dream”; and that the revenue in the offer ($1.6 trillion) is four times greater than the spending cuts ($400 billion). The Weekly Standard even reports that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell “burst into laughter” after Geithner offered the plan.

J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., center, accompanied by Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., left, and Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., gestures while speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Nov, 27, 2012.

*** The White House’s two messages: But is the offer really a laughing matter? From what we understand, the White House is sending two messages from the offer it presented yesterday. One, it’s trying to force House Republicans to pass the middle-class extension of the Bush tax cuts -- with the idea of punting everything else until next year. The message: Extending the middle-class tax cuts is MUCH LESS painful than the other revenue, the debt-limit demand, and additional stimulus. (Think Team Obama has learned from its past negotiating offers, when it started out negotiating from the middle?) Two, the White House is sending the message that if Republicans want entitlement reform, they’re the ones who will have to propose it. After all, the administration’s offer is very specific when it comes to taxes, but not specific at all when it comes to entitlements. In other words, the White House is saying: We’re dragging you to agreeing to higher revenues, but you guys need to drag us to entitlement fixes. It is very possible that the White House’s sky-high offer could blow up in its face. But it’s also quite possible that it forces Republicans to think long and hard about the middle-class extension and what they exactly want on entitlements.

*** Road trip! Meanwhile, as we’ve already reported on this week, Obama hits the road today, taking his fiscal message on the road to Hatfield, PA (the Philadelphia suburbs), where he speaks at 12:05 pm ET. Per the White House, the president will make his case “by visiting a business that depends on middle class consumers during the holiday season, and could be impacted if taxes go up on 98% of Americans at the end of the year. The president will tour and deliver remarks at The Rodon Group manufacturing facility, the sole American manufacturer for K’NEX Brands, a construction toy company whose products include Tinkertoy, K’NEX Building Sets and Angry Bird Building Sets.  The Rodon Group and K’NEX Brands, both third-generation family businesses, employ over 150 people at their Hatfield facilities.”

*** Ted Cruz and 2016? Wow, Sen.-elect Ted Cruz (R) hasn’t even been sworn in yet, and he’s already stoking 2016 speculation. Politico: “Texas Sen.-elect Ted Cruz advised the Republican Party to rebrand itself under a banner of ‘Opportunity Conservatism’ during a sweeping speech Thursday night that will only stoke speculation about a 2016 presidential run. Speaking before the conservative American Principles Project dinner at a downtown Washington hotel, Cruz said the GOP’s thumping in the 2012 elections was more the result of poor messaging and communication than the wrong ideology.” We’ve seen plenty of new senators come in with plenty of hype and attention (Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Marco Rubio), but those worked hard to keep expectations down. This is something else entirely…

*** VA GOP blasts Bolling: Yesterday, we wrote that Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling -- who had exited Virginia’s gubernatorial contest, meaning that Ken Cuccinelli would be the GOP’s nominee next year -- hadn’t closed the door to mounting an independent bid. And that in part explained this pretty stunning statement from the Virginia GOP chair: "I am disappointed by Lt. Governor Bolling's remarks over the past 48 hours... The proper venue for challenging a fellow Republican is during a nomination contest. Lt. Governor Bolling chose to suspend his campaign. I hope he will take his own words to heart and work to bring our Party together." Usually, that type of message is delivered through private channels, not via a press release. Bottom line: Bolling isn’t happy, and that’s a problem for the GOP.

*** On “Meet” this Sunday: Finally, NBC’s David Gregory interviews Treasury Secretary Geithner on “Meet the Press” this Sunday.

Click here to sign up for First Read emails.
Text FIRST to 622639, to sign up for First Read alerts to your mobile phone.
Check us out on Facebook and also on Twitter. Follow us @chucktodd, @mmurraypolitics, @DomenicoNBC, @brookebrower