Democrats and the White House both believe that Republicans will eventually vote to raise the debt limit. They could take a hard line and simply cut off negotiations. But instead, they’re in the midst of talks, headed by Joe Biden, on reducing the deficit. And according to Elise Foley, they’re about to go running up and kick Lucy van Pelt’s football again:

Senator Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), who represents the Senate GOP in White House debt talks, said on Tuesday that a bipartisan group of lawmakers had agreed to about $150 billion in budget cuts so far, with an aim to eventually cut trillions more in order to reach a final deal that would raise the debt ceiling.

Kyl said the group “has just gotten started,” and found about $100 billion in cuts by comparing the 2012 budget proposals by President Barack Obama and the House GOP. From there, they agreed to about $50 billion in additional cuts from the two plans, he said […]

Kyl said the group has worked out few long-term details, with no discussions so far on health care, one of the major drivers of the debt. All entitlements will be subject to discussion, as will defense, he said.

Echoing other Republicans, Kyl said tax measures will not be part of the debt deal because it would “be too complicated to deal with that at the same time that we’re dealing with the debt ceiling.”

So the idea here is that spending cuts, including potential cuts to safety net programs, would come first, and then taxes at some unspecified time in the future? If you think this is just Kyl spinning, Tim Geithner said effectively the same thing, that the overhaul of the corporate tax code would have to wait until the debt/deficit talks ended.

Now Democrats have dangled some ideas, including a millionaire’s surtax, intended as bargaining chips in this debate. But if we’re going to do the spending cuts now, taxes later game, it just seems ripe for Republicans to renege on the deal. Here’s Digby:

Cuts in exchange for “future tax reform” means that there will be no tax increases. I have absolutely no faith at all that they will do anything like that — even the “tax expenditure” gambit — close to the election. And unless Obama wins with a gigantic majority and a filibuster proof senate in 2012, I’m fairly skeptical that they will be able to do it then — and that includes the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, which the two parties will use as major campaign themes.

I would add that Democrats simply don’t have a united caucus on this. Ben Nelson took taxes off the table just yesterday.

This is just a recipe for disaster. The “Do Nothing” strategy never looked better.

David Dayen

David Dayen