Political Animal


July 14, 2011 1:10 PM Cantor ‘is basically standing in the way’

By Steve Benen

With the Speaker of the House relegated to a backbencher role in the ongoing debt talks, Democrats are forced to deal with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.). And while John Boehner seemed relatively willing to work constructively towards a good-faith resolution, Democrats are discovering that his replacement is less willing, less knowledgeable, less cooperative, and frankly less intelligent.

With this in mind, Democratic leaders are making it clear that if there’s a villain in this fiasco, it’s the Post Turtle from Virginia.

Greg Sargent flagged Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) remarks on the floor this morning.

“…House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has shown he shouldn’t be at the table, and Republicans agree he shouldn’t be at the table. One Republican told Politico last night, ‘He lost a lot of credibility when he walked away from the table. It was childish.’

“We had negotiations going here in a room a short jog from here, and he walked out on the meeting. … It was childish. Another Republican said Cantor is putting himself first. He said: ‘He is all about Eric.’

“The time for personal gain and political posturing are over. It’s time to put our economy and our country first. The risks we face are simply too great. We don’t need to take my word for it. More than 300 respected business leaders wrote to Congress night before last to make it clear how serious this crisis really is.”

Sen. Chuck Schumer, the #3 Democrat in the chamber, also pushed back against Cantor.

“He is basically standing in the way,” Schumer said. “It can’t just be Eric Cantor deciding everything. If Eric Cantor decides everything, I fear we’ll be in default.”

Cantor argues that he’s simply representing the reality of the House — that his overwhelmingly conservative caucus won’t vote in sufficient numbers to pass anything resembling a deal Democrats would take. Schumer said that’s nonsense. “He’s not just representing it, he’s making it,” Schumer said.

Asked after the briefing whether a deal would be easier to reach if Cantor stepped aside, Schumer said simply “yes.”

As a practical matter, that’s not going to happen. But the point is Cantor has become someone Democrats don’t feel like they can trust to negotiate reasonably and in good faith. And in this process, Democrats control the White House, the Senate, and a chunk of House votes any deal will need to pass.

I find it hard to imagine Cantor responding to this by bringing a fresh attitude to this afternoon’s talks, but at least he should now realize the pressure is on his shoulders, now that’s he replaced Boehner as the party leader.

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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  • Ron Byers on July 14, 2011 1:20 PM:

    If the American economy takes the hit and Grandma doesn't get her social security check, Eric Cantor will be the fall guy. Sweet.

    The blood isn't even dry on his knife and Eric is finding out just what being in charge is all about.

    In the meantime, how about Boehner rounding up 40-50 long term Republicans and cutting a deal with Nancy Pelosi?

  • Grumpy on July 14, 2011 1:21 PM:

    "...a room a short jog from here..."

    This is completely beside the point, but suddenly I'm wondering if the distance to the room is farther if you walk instead of jog, or shorter if you sprint.

  • Stephen Stralka on July 14, 2011 1:22 PM:

    Cool. Maybe another way to put the issue to Cantor would be to ask him if he really wants to go down in history as the man who wrecked the US economy.

  • delNorte on July 14, 2011 1:23 PM:

    I wonder if Boehner has more political savvy than we give him credit for - by keeping his mouth shut and letting Cantor become the voice of the unbending right Boehner has put the pressure back on Cantor, and put Cantor his his Tea Party contingent front and center for all to see.

    If Cantor somehow compromises with the President, it will tear the Tea Party to shreds. If he doesn't compromise it will illustrate to the rest of the nation how irresponsible the Tea Party is, and how they will destroy the country in their quest for ideological purity.

    It reminds me of the monomaniacal quest of Captain Ahab in Moby Dick: "...and so the bird of heaven, with archangelic shrieks, and his imperial beak thrust upwards, and his whole captive form folded in the flag of Ahab, went down with his ship, which, like Satan, would not sink to hell till she had dragged a living part of heaven along with her, and helmeted herself with it."

  • withay on July 14, 2011 1:25 PM:

    It is way past time for Boehner to be "the adult" he promised to be when he became Speaker. He has to realize that Cantor is NOT his friend, but his rival; and, that Cantor will basically throw him under a bus at the first opportunity. Boehner can remain passive and be consigned as weakest Speaker ever by history, or he can resume his role and negotiate a compromise that will get the $4 trillion number and be hailed by historians as visionary for striking a deal with unprecedented cuts while raising miniscule amounts of revenue. He can basically ditch the freshmen class who are Cantor's playmates and deal with Pelosi and her block to accomplish the mature thing to do.

    Many of those tea party freshmen will not be returning in 2013 anyway, so it is time for leadership from Boehner.

  • eric on July 14, 2011 1:26 PM:

    I suspect that a large part of this is institutional. Unless there was a vote we dont know about, Boner is the Speaker and Cantor is Number Two. Now you are seeing Institutional Players (Reid and Schumer) going hard at Cantor personally. I suspect he has broken a rule we all live by: you dont show up your boss. And all the other bosses are now reminding their underlings that if you step out you gonna get whacked. Cantor is dead, not because he is truly any worse than Boner, but because he has forgotten his place and the Institutions cant have that.

  • sjw on July 14, 2011 1:31 PM:

    My sense is that McConnell and Boehner -- perhaps even with encouragement from Obama -- are letting Cantor lead right now, as it serves their respective political ends: the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Cantor is being actively dissed by the Dems as I write; he is also in the process of being dumped and thrown under the bus by McConnell and Boehner. Excellent ...

  • Josef K on July 14, 2011 1:31 PM:

    The man is a walking conflict of interest, and not simply because he has a financial incentive to tank the economy.

    His 'interests' are in direct conflict with the health of our economy, the good of our country, and basic morality.

    Sadly, it seems he's here to stay...at least until all the people he's managed to shat upon get together and introduce him to 'old hickory'.

  • Stranger on July 14, 2011 1:33 PM:

    I expect the smackdown is on the way. Cantor has had his fun being the heckler at these meetings (then running to Fox News to brag about it), but McConnel and Boehner (much as I dislike the both of them) realize that disaster awaits if they continue to let Cantor mouth off.

    TPM reports that Reid and McConnell are working on a contingency plan. The Old Lions are going to work up a solution (probably a pretty shabby one, but even a bad solurion would look pretty good right now), and they're going to keep Cantor out of the room until it's done.

    And +1 to eric's post above. Pretty much the same point I wanted to make. Cantor is about to be shown his place in the pecking order. I'm hoping it's a very public display.

  • MattF on July 14, 2011 1:37 PM:

    I actually don't agree that Cantor is in the way. It's the House Republican caucus that is in the way-- Cantor is only a sample of the problem, not the problem itself.

  • Skip on July 14, 2011 1:38 PM:

    "If the American economy takes the hit and Grandma doesn't get her social security check, Eric Cantor will be the fall guy. Sweet" Ron Byers

    Not with the assistance of our media he won't. Yahoo is reporting that "government" is not fixing this problem, and "Congress" can't come to an agreement.

    Information specifics like Who and Why are scarcely making it out to Main Street, this issue is cloaked behind the smoke screen heading of "government" and Everybody Knows that government is synonymous with Obama...

  • bsmith on July 14, 2011 1:39 PM:

    I have never wished more fervently for a congressman to be caught with a "live boy or dead girl" than for Cantor. The problem is there is no amount of money that would attract the live boy to him and the dead girl would have to planted. I know he is in a safe district, but he is making many other congress critters worry about their marginal one.

  • c u n d gulag on July 14, 2011 2:00 PM:

    The weight of the world is on Cantors shoulders.

    Narrow shoulders, and an even narrower mind.

    But yeah, I agree with some of the people above.

    Yertle and Boner may just be letting him crow and strut about like the cock of the walk - before his head is lopped off by the money people and he ends up as coq au "vain."

  • Ron Byers on July 14, 2011 2:00 PM:


    Yahoo is notorious for Republican centric headlines and the AP is a Republican mouth piece, but even my wife is aware that Obama put Cantor in his place last night. I suspect word is filterinig out past the Republican media gatekeepers. People are paying attention. Grandma's social security check hangs in the balance.

  • st john on July 14, 2011 2:05 PM:

    Again, where is the "financial community?" Write a huge check to Obama's campaign and the DNC and stop payments of any further campaign contributions to the Republicans.

    NO, too simple. The wealthy will just build bigger fortresses to protect themselves from the people.

  • Brenna on July 14, 2011 2:11 PM:

    With the world tuning in more and more each day, it's hard to believe people would think the tea party is good for America.

    Not only do I hope we get this settled soon, but I hope this ends the tea party insanity.

  • rrk1 on July 14, 2011 2:14 PM:

    It's been pretty clear for a while that Cantor was at the end of the line when it came to handing out brains. Right now it looks as though he is being set up for the big fall since the D.C. establishment seems to realize how serious this situation is. Wall Street has made its concerns well known. Academics have chimed in. The corporate world is worried and has said so. But slow-witted Cantor wants to be Speaker. That's all he seems to know. The Teabaggers are going to take a big hit, and Cantor, their mouthpiece, is toast. He's too dumb to know he's being played, but someone will spell it out for him in short order.

    As critical as I am of Obama, he does seem to know how to play a brutal game of poker when he feels like it. I just wish the desire would rise up in him more often.

  • Objective Dem on July 14, 2011 2:23 PM:

    Cantor is a Randian hero. He just cares about his self interest, screw everyone else.

  • sfsmskater on July 14, 2011 2:28 PM:

    I'm betting on Cantor. Obama will cave.

  • T2 on July 14, 2011 2:52 PM:

    "donít feel like they can trust " --- My god, that is an understatement of epic proportions

  • T2 on July 14, 2011 2:55 PM:

    one more - what happened to Ryan? The genius savior of all TeaPartydom. He was the man of the moment a few weeks ago, and then "poof" he is gone. I"ve got a feeling Cantor will suffer the same fate...

  • kevo on July 14, 2011 3:05 PM:

    Whew, Cantor got through yesterday without soiling himself! I guess the bar hasn't been lowered to the floor. Good news for Cantor! -Kevo

  • pebble on July 14, 2011 3:17 PM:

    I live in a congressional district represented by a tea party freshman representative. I called his office and asked that he repudiate the leadership of Eric Cantor. I then called Rep. Cantor's office and told them that I had requested this of my congressman. Perhaps we can find other such ways to continue to pressure Mr. Cantor.

  • Lee A. Arnold on July 14, 2011 3:31 PM:

    Looks like the Republican leadership has gone too far in whipping-up the phony fear of deficits, and now Cantor is going to be the fall guy. The sad realization is that Reid and the Democrats are leading the rhetorical charge against Cantor, to save the skins of McConnell and Boehner.

    Because the real solution would be for McConnell and Boehner to publicly read the Riot Act to the Tea Party, saying, "Here is why default is a disaster," etc.

    They do not want to, of course, because the Tea Party are the only reliable voters and will put up massive primary challenges.

    A logical conclusion is that Reid et al. are offering to save the political careers of their buddies on the other side of the aisle. This is a horrible idea, after all the things those people have done to ditch the economy and ruin Obama.

  • Texas Aggie on July 14, 2011 4:29 PM:

    It is obvious since a long time ago that Cantor is someone who can't be trusted to do anything in good faith. This morning I saw a video from way back where he was blaming Pelosi for something that he had done. That kind of behavior has become his trademark and might as well be tattooed on his forehead just to remind people of what a spoiled brat he is.

  • hondr on July 14, 2011 4:34 PM:

    Sorry, lefties, but it isn't Boehner or Cantor that's your nemesis. It's the American people. They overwhelmingly support balancing the budget by reducing the massive spending increases Obama has booked. And the People don't support raising the debt ceiling.

    The Left would have raised taxes by now, if it was politically advantageous to do so. They controlled Congress since 2006, and the WH since 2008. They didn't jack taxes, because they knew they woulda got blasted at the ballot box if they did. That's why they're begging for Republican cover for this tax increase, and are crying like spoiled children because the American people aren't giving it to them.

    Boehner and Cantor are simply doing the People's will. Sorry.

    Cut the 10 year spending by $2.5T, and the debt ceiling will be extended beyond the 2012 election, as Obama wants. He's still likely going to lose reelection, but at least he can go into it claiming to be a "deficit fighter".

  • Texas Aggie on July 14, 2011 4:49 PM:

    I followed the links of "post turtle" back to the original. Do it and read the comments. They are so prescient, particularly TCinLA and Ron Byers.


    I'm not sure where hondr gets his information (Michele Bachmann?), but the actual polls that have been done totally and completely contradict his statements about what "the People" want. They are well aware that the debt limit has to be raised to prevent an economic catastrophe and that the republicans are the ones standing in the way. They overwhelmingly support increased taxes on those people who have seen their incomes go up by over 300% in the last few decades while their taxes have been cut to less than a third of what they used to pay, meantime everyone else's income has stagnated. And don't even mention the various loopholes that allow them to get subsidies and to off shore money. Fewer than 25% support the republican position that only cuts should be done, and the rest think that the solution is a combination of increased taxes and budget cuts. Even fewer regard closing loopholes as raising taxes.

  • Lloyd on July 14, 2011 5:15 PM:

    Texas Aggie on July 14, 2011 4:49 PM:

    Please see my above comment abour who runs Bartertown. Thanks.

  • EJM on July 14, 2011 10:03 PM:

    Obama has no budget, after what he laughably called a budget was voted down 97-0 in the Senate.

    The House including Eric Cantor passed its budget resolution on April 15. The Senate has had no budget for over two years.

    Both the President and the Senate Majority Leader are violating the 1974 law (passed by a democratic Congress) that requires them to submit a detailed budget for hearings and public scrutiny long before now.

    As the CBO's head accountant said "We do not estimate speeches."

    Obama and Harry Reid expect a blank check on the debt ceiling or to hoodwink Republicans into a phony deal behind closed doors to raise taxes while fictitious spending cuts will never materialize. Let's see their plan. As long as they can't or won't produce a public budget proposal, they are violating the law and that is the problem.

  • mikeh106 on July 15, 2011 11:21 AM:

    EJM - the problem is that Cantor, and Republicans in general, are a bunch of 2 year olds who are standing in the corner with their faces all red and scruched up yelling "No!". Time for them to get paddled and put to bed. And that'll start happening when they approve tax increases and loophole eliminations in the next week and continue throough 2012 when a bunch get voted out of office.

  • Michael on July 15, 2011 12:03 PM:

    Hondr , your deficit lie has been pinpricked like a balloon, when they refused the 10 yr 4 trillion dollar deal, they are only interested in not taxing the rich, yet you like a blind fool you are still defend their idiocy to the death.