Earlier today House Republicans made their first counteroffer to President Obama in negotiations over the fiscal cliff. Their offer was based on testimony made by Erskine Bowles, the co-chair of President Obama's original debt commission, to the debt-reduction Supercommittee formed in the wake of the summer 2011 debt ceiling fight. The GOP's offer letter described the "Bowles plan" as "exactly the kind of imperfect, but fair middle ground" the might allow the two sides to come to a deal and avert the fiscal cliff.
Democrats didn't like Bowles' proposal all that much when he delivered his testimony last year, and weren't likely to find it much improved since.
But now the idea has a notable new detractor: Erskine Bowles, who distanced himself from the GOP's offer late this afternoon.
"While I'm flattered the Speaker would call something 'the Bowles plan,' the approach outlined in the letter Speaker Boehner sent to the President does not represent the Simpson-Bowles plan, nor is it the Bowles plan," Bowles said in a statement released by the Moment of Truth Project. "In my testimony before the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, I simply took the mid-point of the public offers put forward during the negotiations to demonstrate where I thought a deal could be reached at that time. The Joint Select Committee failed to reach a deal, and circumstances have changed since then. It is up to negotiators to figure out where the middle ground is today."
The GOP's "Bowles plan," in other words, is not the Bowles plan. It's not really even a plan at all. It's a posture. As I argued earlier today, the GOP counteroffer, like the Obama offer that preceeded it, was not about putting forth a plausible package for a deal. It was about trying to create a particular appearance that they hoped would help them negotiate.