I think we’re dealing with another yo-yo situation, where the White House puts out a trial balloon, gauges reaction, and then pulls it back, allowing everyone to see what they want to see but mainly confusing the issue.

Earlier today the New York Times reported a wide-ranging deal between the President and House Speaker John Boehner, something that progressed all the way to the point where it was related to other Congressional leaders. It would have $3 trillion in concrete cuts, with a tax reform plan to be decided later – in 2012, during the election! – that would have a goal of raising revenue. So there would be all cuts, with the revenue option to come later. Never mind that, from the current baseline, this is a $0.00 deficit reduction deal. It just replaces $3 trillion in spending cuts, including cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, for the expiration of the Bush tax cuts.

Harry Reid, obviously briefed on a framework agreement, expressed concern about an all-cuts approach with only the hope of revenue increases later. Apparently there was a fail-safe attached to the previous Obama/Boehner grand bargain that has now been jettisoned.

One top Dem aide explained the problem: In early negotiations that ultimately collapsed, Obama and Boehner considered passing a package of spending cuts with a promise to tackle tax reform in the coming months. But — this is key — a failsafe written in to the grand bargain would have decoupled most of the Bush tax cuts from those cuts benefiting only top earners. If comprehensive tax reform failed to pass this Congress, those top bracket cuts would expire.

Now, the aide says, Democrats are concerned that the White House might abandon that failsafe [...]

“I only know what you know about the agreement — the potential agreement,” Reid said. “I’ve been told — a call came in from the White House during this meeting that there’s no agreement, they’re working toward an agreement. What I have to say is this: The President always talked about balance. That there had to be some fairness in this. That this can’t be all cuts. There has to be a balance. There has to be some revenue in the cuts. My caucus agrees with that. I hope the President sticks with that. I’m confident he will.”

OMB Director Jack Lew apparently heard a lot of anger from the Senate over this report in a caucus meeting. And now, Dan Pfeiffer has tweeted: “Anyone reporting a $3 trillion deal without revenues is incorrect. POTUS believes we need a balanced approach that includes revenues.”

Well, it’s possible that the aspirational future tax reform plan does “include revenues” under Obama’s working definition. But that’s life with the yo-yo.

All we know is that we don’t know. There’s a Gang of Six plan that House Republicans and Democrats alike don’t favor, for different reasons. There’s this grand bargain plan that could probably get Republicans but maybe not Democrats, especially with only aspirational revenue. There’s the McConnell-Reid stopgap with $1.5 trillion in cuts attached, but there are arguments about the cuts.

About the only thing we know is this: because of the lack of a legislative agenda outside of these debt limit discussions, K Street is losing clients and having to hire less lobbyists.

So there’s a silver lining after all.

…the President just called a 5:30 ET meeting with Pelosi, Reid, Hoyer and Durbin. This could be the “bring the hammer down” meeting where Democrats are told it’s either this grand bargain with no definite revenue or nothing.