As Republicans Negotiate, Voters Get Panicky About Default

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
July 12 2011 8:28 AM

As Republicans Negotiate, Voters Get Panicky About Default

Jay Newton-Small explains the debt talks so far -- a grand bargain from Boehner scuttled because Eric Cantor said such a deal couldn't survive the anti-tax voters of the House.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

In the Monday White House meeting, Cantor proposed cuts to Medicare benefits, but nothing that might entice Democrats. Go learn the definition of “shared sacrifice,” Obama scoffed. He assigned Cantor homework: We are short of the $2.4 trillion goal that will get us past the 2012 elections, find some cuts that Republicans don’t particularly like to put on the table, we’ve already offered you a bunch of cuts Democrats don’t like. You must, Obama said, work to meet us in the middle.
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Boehner hardly said a word in the meeting. His stance seems to be: if Cantor didn’t like the grand bargain, he’s welcome to negotiate one on his own. Republicans left the meeting noticeably subdued. Few had anything they wanted to say about it. And Cantor may have just jumped from the frying pan of Biden’s debt talks and into the fire of Obama’s. He has little experience hammering out legislative deals — particularly at this level. He wanted a smaller deal, and now Boehner’s sitting back and watching silently as Cantor flounders.

Boehner took the heat from conservatives on the last deal, the CR. It wasn't exactly scorching heat, just some griping from freshmen and press releases from Tea Party. Whoever negotiates this deal is going to suffer predictable attacks from his base. But this is playing out just like the shutdown did -- as doomsday gets closer, voters get more panicky, and there's more of an upside to approving whatever deal exists. Look at the trend in the Pew poll from May to July.

Are you more concerned about the risks of...
Not raising the debt ceiling? 42% (+7)
Raising the debt ceiling? 47% (-1)

I think Newton-Small is right, that the further this gets, the more it looks like the panic that the House to swing behind TARP.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.