So far the negotiating game House Republicans seem to want to play in the lame duck is to avoid proposing any actual spending cuts, while hitting President Obama on not proposing some spending cuts for them.
Presumably what would happen if Obama proposed some cuts is that Republicans would denounce them as insufficient and then try to drag the debate even further right with even larger demands for (still unspecified) cuts.
This is the first opportunity I see for Democrats to quit being austerians for the tax cut state and pull American politics back to the more sensible dynamic we used to have where the party that wants cuts proposes the cuts, and the party that doesn’t want cuts doesn’t propose any.
In case people haven’t realized this, the Republican game is to pass a bunch of tax cuts and blow up the deficit when they’re in power, and then complain about said deficits when they’re out of power. Democrats get stuck being the party that cleans up the mess. Which is good responsible policymaking to an extent, but too many Democrats have mistakenly convinced themselves that this is also good politics, and that the public will reward them politically for making the hard unpopular choices.
It’s not, and they won’t. Deficit reducition is always extremely unpopular in practice. Democrats need to go back to being the party of proposing new goodies, and force the Republicans to be the party that exclusively worries about the deficit, and wastes all its political energy on unpopular spending cuts and pay-fors.
In the case of the lame duck session, Democrats need to know better than to propose or accept any spending cuts until after January 1 when the Bush tax cuts expire and we automatically get a new revenue baseline.