Ongoing negotiations between Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Vice President Joe Biden broke down over the last 24 hours, when Cantor decided that the question of whether there might be tax increases as part of a deficit-reduction package (paired with a legal rise in the debt ceiling) made further discussions pointless.
“We have to get over this impasse on taxes,” he told The Wall Street Journal. “The utility of these talks has been building the specifics. The groundwork has been laid, the blue print is there, we have a vision of the agreement.”
So the talks were making progress and had centered on roughly $2 trillion in cuts, Cantor suggests, but because taxes were inevitably going to be part of the discussion–if only because Democrats are loathe to accept a package comprised solely of massive spending cuts–it was appropriate for him to abandon the effort and pass the buck up to President Obama and Speaker Boehner. “I think it’s in the hands of the speaker and the president and, sadly, probably me,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
“Eric Cantor just threw Boehner under the bus,” a senior Democratic Congressional aide told Talking Points Memo. “This move is an admission that there will be a need for revenues in the final deal to cut our deficit, and Cantor doesn’t want to be the one to make that deal.”
But Cantor is misleading when he suggests taxes are the only thing left; Kent Conrad, the departing Senate Democrat who chairs the Finance Committee, has indicated something more like $4 trillion in spending reductions are warranted.
So Cantor seems to have just tired of Joe Biden’s Catholic-from-Scranton sense of humor, rather than actually having made a coherent decision on ensuring the debt ceiling is raised before America goes into default in the first week of August.