Political Animal


June 23, 2011 10:45 AM Cantor pulls out of debt talks

By Steve Benen

We talked earlier about how badly the bipartisan debt-reduction talks appear to be going. The Wall Street Journal reports this morning that the process appears to be getting worse.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor Thursday said he was pulling out of the bipartisan budget talks headed by Vice President Joe Biden for now because the group has reached an impasse over taxes that only President Barack Obama and Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) could resolve.

Mr. Cantor, in an interview after a negotiating session he described as bitterly contentious, said he would not be attending today’s scheduled meeting of the bipartisan deficit-reduction leadership group because he believed it was time for the negotiations to move to a higher level.

“We’ve reached the point where the dynamic needs to change,” Mr. Cantor said. “It is up to the president to come in and talk to the speaker. We’ve reached the end of this phase. Now is the time for these talks to go into abeyance.”

Let’s put this another way. One of the leading hostage-takers (Cantor) has decided he no longer wants to talk to the negotiators (Democrats) struggling to meet his unreasonable demands. Instead, he wants the lead hostage-taker (Boehner) to talk to the lead negotiator (President Obama).

This was expected to happen eventually, but only after these participants crafted a blueprint, or at least an outline, for a compromise. Cantor, this morning, indicated that the current participants can’t even get to this point.

For two weeks, the oft-confused House Majority Leader had said the talks appeared to be progressing nicely. It now appears Cantor either didn’t mean what he was saying, or the process collapsed with surprising speed.

Keep two additional angles in mind. First, the clock is quickly becoming an enemy here. In order to avoid a panic and risking the nation’s credit status, everyone seems to agree a deal should be wrapped up before the 4th of July. That is, for those keeping score at home, 11 days from today. With progress at a standstill, what are the chances leading policymakers will resolve their differences over the next week?

Second, to reemphasize a point from earlier, failure on this isn’t like failure in most legislative talks. On most issues, if policymakers engage in negotiations, and the process fails, the bill dies and goes away for a while.

When it comes to the debt ceiling, if the talks fail, Republicans have vowed to cause a recession on purpose. If failure is an option, the consequences would likely prove catastrophic.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • Adam on June 23, 2011 10:51 AM:

    Don't forget that Cantor is competitive with Boehner. If taxes have to be raised, Cantor, head of the tea party party, wants to make sure that Boehner takes the blame. Thus, this may mean that negotiations are getting serious enough that Cantor has begun to engage in what he takes most seriously: covering his ass.

  • T2 on June 23, 2011 10:51 AM:

    Having Cantor pull out of the negotiations is the best news we've had. He is a moron and a liar.
    On the other hand, it probably means that the GOP has made up its mind to let chips fall where they may regarding the debt ceiling....in hopes it will contribute to Obama's defeat - which is expressly the only thing they care about.

  • SYSPROG on June 23, 2011 10:54 AM:

    Oh BS...Cantor is a bully and a coward and he's running away. He knows that he will have to run again for office and he knows that he looks like a jerk these days. He is pulling out for purely political reasons and nothing else. The man has no values, beliefs, or ideology. He runs his mouth one way until he is chastized and the run the other way. He is trying to put the blame on someone else. He HAS to blame the President but he's really blaming Boehner. Just watch when a compromise is reached.

  • BudP on June 23, 2011 10:58 AM:

    Fiddle - dee - dee

    Scarlett O'Cantor has stomped away in a huff

  • BrklynLibrul on June 23, 2011 10:58 AM:

    T2 is correct. Apparently, it's very, very tough for Beltway pundits to grasp, but a critical mass of Republicans are willing to risk a financial apocalypse if they feel they can destroy the Democratic party at the same time. And evidently the Chamber of Commerce has very little leverage over these "negotiations."

    The good news about the coming Dark Ages is that everyone -- from lazy, insulated Washington journalists to Wall Street hedge funds to Blue Dog Dems (Kent Conrad, I'm looking at you) -- will be decimated. Finally, finally the suffering will be spread all around. But some things won't change: Steve Benen will still keep telling us all to clap louder for the President.

  • MBunge on June 23, 2011 11:00 AM:

    For all the people bitching about how Obama has screwed up this whole debt limit thing by agreeing to use it as a pretext for budget negotiations, consider this.

    1. If Obama had said no negotiations, there's a real possiblity the GOP House would have told him to go screw himself, producing a global financial catastrophe.

    2. If Obama got a clean debt limit vote through the House, it would have been by strongarming every Democrat to vote for it and then promising the Moon in future budget negotations to get enough Republican votes to pass it. The GOP would then turn around and crucify every Democrat who voted to raise the debt limit in the 2012 election.

    3. Even after getting the debt limit raised, a budget would still need to be passed and that would repeat the process from #2. Democrats in the House and Senate would be strongarmed into supporting a budget just crappy enough to get 20 or so GOP House votes, after which the Republicans crucify every Democrat who voted for the budget and every spending cut and tax increase it would have to contain.

    Obama might have made a mistake, but what exactly were the good options that he overlooked?


  • stormskies on June 23, 2011 11:01 AM:

    And let's remember that one of the saddest and most pathetic facts about all this is that the majority of Americans, after having explained to them what the real life consequences will be in not passing the debt ceiling, support those consequences. It is a real testimony to the absolute stupidity of vast majority of the citizens of our country. This would be the same population, after the last election of 2010, in which around 50% did not even know there was an election, and that the Repiglicans had regained control of the House. This is the same population of people in which 40% 'believe' that the Earth is less than 10,000 years old, and that humans co-mingled with the Dinosaurs. The same population that voted the Repiglicans back into power less that 18 months after those same Repiglicans had destroyed our and the world's economy.

    With a population like this, it's abject stupidity, America deserves exactly what it gets because it is in fact responsible for the actual reality that all of us are part of right now. We can blame the media, this and that, all we want too. And of course all of that is true, yet the underlying fact remains: the general population of our country is simply at the level of being imbeciles.

  • biggerbox on June 23, 2011 11:04 AM:

    Did you notice the power relationship Cantor described there? It's up to the President to go to Boehner, not the other way around. Cantor wants Obama to go "hat in hand" as they used to say, and beg Boehner for concessions.

    Me, I'd suggest Obama go to the media and use Cantor's withdrawal as the occasion to blame the GOP for failing to compromise, and further, for trying to destroy the economy. It's time to stop playing nice with these crooks, and time for some "Give 'em Hell" Truman-esque pain to rain down on their heads from the bully pulpit.

    Not Obama's style, I'm afraid.

  • Ron Byers on June 23, 2011 11:08 AM:

    You know the Debt Ceiling is a lousy hostage. it is like taking a hostage with a bomb strapped to his chest set to go off at a time certain. The hostage taker is in real jeopardy and the negotiator knows it.

    My guess is Biden is pushing the hostage taker to give a concession on taxes Cantor knows he will have to accept or the bomb will go off and his name will be eternally linked to the collapse of the world economy.

  • June on June 23, 2011 11:10 AM:

    @Mike - some good points, there.

  • Dan Radmacher on June 23, 2011 11:13 AM:

    Republicans are running out of time to screw around on this. If a deal cannot be reached soon, the United States will default on its obligations, and global economic catastrophe would likely follow. Republicans know this, but are counting on Democrats being responsible enough to avoid it by giving into policy demands Republicans cant win any other way. It is a despicable, irresponsible, immoral hostage strategy. As congressional candidate Andy Schmookler put it, the Republican position is Meet our demands or well hurt America.

    America should be outraged.

  • c u n d gulag on June 23, 2011 11:15 AM:

    Obama should go on national TV in prime time and talk to the nation - with the Democratic leaders to show their support.

    First, he should tell the people how he wishes he had Truman's "Do Nothing Congress," since that would be an improvement over the "Do Harm House" he's got to deal with now.

    He should spell out how Republicans, who not only haven't proposed ONE single jobs bill, are now, without raising the debt ceiling - something they did 7 times under George W. Bush - willing to throw this nation back into recession, or, worse, into a depression even GREATER than The Great Depression.

    If there's any other time besides a time of war to use "The Bully Pulpit," IT IS NOW, MR. PRESIDENT!!!
    And, of course, this is a time of war!
    It's A CLASS WAR!!!!!!!!

  • elbrucce on June 23, 2011 11:29 AM:

    Republicans have vowed to cause a recession on purpose.

    In other words, the R's are behaving like sociopaths. They are not "confused."

    It's about time that the media start calling them out, rather than abetting the evil by sweeping it under the rug.

  • Trollop on June 23, 2011 11:31 AM:

    If only they had discussed a new tax on the homeless and the poorest poor! That would have saved the show!

    Americans are idiots; 5 billion a month (borrowed) to fight against stone age pedophile Pashtuns that keep their women in beekeeper uniforms but Jesus Fucking Christ forbid we actually pay taxes to pay for government programs and services. We need an "American Spring" but apparently, it must get far more ridiculous and tragically stupid before it gets marginally better? Osama and Obama are dead, get ready for another Shrub!

  • CDW on June 23, 2011 11:46 AM:

    They want to talk directly to Obama because they know a patsy when they see one.

  • QuestionEverything on June 23, 2011 11:50 AM:

    He's putting the CAN'T in Can'tor again. No we can't or...

  • SadOldVet on June 23, 2011 11:54 AM:

    Please do not blame Obama when he sells out the American workers in the name of compromise! After all, he will just be fulfilling his role as The Great Capitulator.

  • Mimikatz on June 23, 2011 11:54 AM:

    I'm going to hope this is Cantor trying to shift the blame onto Boehner so he can (he thinks) be the next speaker. I'm also going to hope this means there is the outline of a deal on closing tax loopholes at least to increase revenue. I'm also going to hope that enough top finance and business people still have a stake in the US economy to make Boehner reach a deal.

    I'm afraid that the GOP has decided that a default will cripple the economy sufficiently that it will force a retrenchment of government. That would be truly, spectacularly pathologically ideologically insane, but today's GOP is so delusional that I wouldn't put it past them. The folks who are bankrolling them seem equally nuts to me. But as someone said, what do you expect from a populace that has so little understanding of economics that they believe that firing government workers and reducing government spending will magically create jobs.

  • dj spellchecka on June 23, 2011 11:56 AM:

    have to wonder how the orange crush reacts to the fact that his #2 admits he isn't up to doing the job assignment

  • desraye on June 23, 2011 11:57 AM:

    "They want to talk directly to Obama because they know a patsy when they see one."

    Yes, the man that got Osama Bin Laden is a patsy. The man that got 3 billion more in spending after the last budget deal is a patsy.( Rolling eyes)

  • danimal on June 23, 2011 12:02 PM:

    The negotiations seem to be going well. If the Dems hold out for a few more weeks, the Big Money Boys will come crashing down on the GOP leaders. The Big Money Boys (sorry, very few women allowed, yet) want the GOP to extract some Dem concessions, but they absolutely NEED the ceiling extended. They want political wins; they NEED to avoid losing trillions over symbolic votes.

    The best chance for the GOP to extract a deal in their favor is before July 4. That's why they are starting to have a whiff of panic. After July 4, they are on VERY shaky ground, and they know it (and Obama/Reid know it, too). Obama and Reid are taking a soft line in public and a hard line in negotiations, which is exactly what they should be doing. Time is on their side.

    Everyone calm down; there will be plenty of time to flip out if the deal is as bad as you fear.

  • KC on June 23, 2011 12:05 PM:

    Our brave President has done a wonderful job keeping the people informed of the consequences of a default. Indeed, the more rhetorical ground he cedes to the Cantor and Boehnor, the more everyone clearly understands defaulting on the debt would be a terrible thing. It's just obvious that his strategic silence is part of a straight forward plan to allow the public to digest the fact that Republicans are willing to sink the economy to defeat him.

    Bravo to the President. Who knew a the steady hand leadership sounded like a whisper?

  • stevio on June 23, 2011 12:07 PM:

    What fun...

  • SYSPROG on June 23, 2011 12:37 PM:

  • bdop4 on June 23, 2011 1:06 PM:

    "'Weve reached the point where the dynamic needs to change,' Mr. Cantor said. 'It is up to the president to come in and talk to the speaker.'"

    I agree with biggerbox. Boehner must come to Obama, and the message from Obama should be, "increase the debt limit or we will DESTROY YOU."

    Then hold the press conference c u n d gulag suggests.

  • Marko on June 23, 2011 1:28 PM:

    Just another classic Rope-a-Dope move Obama is putting on the GOP.

    GOP: No taxes, and cut spending by $2 trillion OR ELSE!

    Obama: Zzzzz...

    GOP: Hello? Is anyone listening?


    GOP: OK, we'll extend the Debt Limit for a few more months. But next time...

  • MBunge on June 23, 2011 4:20 PM:

    If Obama is a patsy, what does that make Bill "the-era-of-big-government-is-over-let's-all-wear-school-uniforms-and-play-midnight-basketball" Clinton?


  • Giro on June 23, 2011 9:51 PM:

    Cantor pulled a Palin. Quitting is conservative.