Cantor, Kyl Exit Deficit Talks

Two pullouts suggest that the GOP won't negotiate any further until Democrats takes tax increases off the table

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Following on a decision by House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor, (R-Va.),to pull out of the White House-led debt and deficit talks on Thursday, the other Republican negotiator, Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, has also dropped out.

The new GOP position appears to be that they will not negotiate any further until Democrats take tax increases off the table. That stance seems to reflect their assessment that there are not the votes in the House to pass any deal that includes tax increases.

Cantor announced suddenly on Thursday that he would not be attending the scheduled afternoon meeting of the bipartisan deficit-reduction leadership group headed by Vice President Joe Biden, declaring tax issues an obstacle that President Obama needs to help resolve and that he believes it is time for the negotiations to move to a higher level. "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," Cantor said in a statement. 

House Speaker John Boehner, (R-Ohio), said when Democrats drop their demand for taxes the talk can continue, and he embraced Cantor's decision. "I understand his frustration. I understand why he did what he did," Boehner said.

And in what appeared to be a coordinated statement, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, (R-Ky.), on Thursday also attacked Obama for not playing a more prominent role in deficit-reduction efforts. "He's in charge," McConnell said in a morning floor speech. "I think most Americans think it's about time he starts acting like it. It's not enough for the president to step in front of a microphone every once in a while and say a few words that someone hands him to say about jobs and the economy."

Although Cantor said he would not be attending Thursday's talks, he remained optimistic about the prospects for a deal. He said the Biden group has made significant progress and has 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 stalemate created by 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.

There was no immediate reaction from Democratic members on the Biden-led panel, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, (D-Md.), and House Assistant Minority Leader James Clyburn, (D-S.C.), who on Thursday morning were at the White House with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, (D-Calif.), meeting with Obama and Biden on the debt negotiations. But at a Senate Finance Committee hearing on health care entitlement programs, Committee Chairman Max Baucus, (D-Mont.), said he was disappointed at the development. "I think Majority Leader Cantor is wrong. I think he should stay at the table," Baucus said, adding that he "very strongly" believed there needed to be revenue increases in any deficit package to get savings from health programs.

Presented by

Billy House & Dan Friedman

Billy House is a staff writer (Congress) for National Journal. Dan Friedman is a staff writer (Senate leadership) for National Journal.

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