Cantor to Obama: I'm Out of the Debt Talks, But Give Up on Taxes and We've Got a Deal

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
June 23 2011 10:28 AM

Cantor to Obama: I'm Out of the Debt Talks, But Give Up on Taxes and We've Got a Deal

The majority leader pulls out of bipartisan talks , his staff making reporters very, very aware of a WSJ lead that features an interview with the man himself.

Mr. Cantor remained optimistic about the prospects for a deal. He said the Biden group had already made significant progress and had tentatively identified more than $2 trillion in spending cuts over the next 10 years. But he said there could be no agreement on an overall package without breaking the impasse between Republicans' refusal to accept any tax increase, and Democrats insistence that some tax hikes be part of the deal.

"We have to get over this impasse on taxes,'' he said. "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."

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The "impasse on taxes" is this: Republicans don't want to raise taxes. Democrats will go along with spending cuts. Republicans won't, and are not allowing any room for any discussion of any revenue enhancers. See Mike Lee yesterday; see Mitch McConnell yesterday.

Cantor's office isn't saying more about what caused the impasse, but here's the full statement.

Since early May, Vice President Biden has led meetings surrounding the debt limit. The Vice President deserves a great deal of credit for his leadership in bringing us this far.  We have worked to find areas of commonality to meet the goal of identifying spending cuts commensurate with or exceeding the amount of the Obama Administration's request for a debt limit increase. I believe that we have identified trillions in spending cuts, and to date, we have established a blueprint that could institute the fiscal reforms needed to start getting our fiscal house in order.  That said, each side came into these talks with certain orders, and as it stands the Democrats continue to insist that any deal must include tax increases.  There is not support in the House for a tax increase, and I don’t believe now is the time to raise taxes in light of our current economic situation.  Regardless of the progress that has been made, the tax issue must be resolved before discussions can continue.   Given this impasse, I will not be participating in today's meeting and I believe it is time for the President to speak clearly and resolve the tax issue.  Once resolved, we have a blueprint to move forward to trillions of spending cuts and binding mechanisms to change the way things are done around here.

I emphasize the last part because it sounds like Cantor wants the president to suit up and tell the country whether or not he wants to raise taxes, as he's saying in the room. There's a whiff of Br'er rabbit about this -- if Obama called for tax hikes on people making, say, over $500,000 (as Kathy Hochul called for), he'd be calling for something that most voters support.

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

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