What's Up Next for the Debt-Ceiling Negotiations?

With Cantor and Kyl's exit from the Biden's panel, successful negotiations depend on President Obama's talks with the Speaker of the House


The decision by GOP leaders involved in the deficit-cutting talks led by Vice President Joe Biden to bolt from the negotiations may have seemed abrupt, but the move, in fact, now brings greater clarity to the effort and puts the responsibility for a successful outcome squarely on the shoulders of President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, (R-Ohio).

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, (R-Va.), and Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl, (R-Ariz.), announced that they were quitting the talks on Thursday and blamed their exits on an impasse over tax hikes, but Cantor's and Kyl's departures--ushering in the likely demise of the Biden-led panel--should not have been that surprising. The Biden panel may have exhausted its usefulness, making way for the next stage of negotiations involving the president.

As far back as June 1, Boehner was already expressing some anxiety over the slow pace of the panel's progress, emphasizing that a deal was needed during the next month, and that Obama needed to become more engaged.

With the clock ticking down to August 2, the deadline by which the Treasury Department says Congress must increase its $14.3 trillion debt ceiling or risk defaulting on its obligations, Boehner had said there was no reason to bump up against that deadline.

"It's time to play large ball, not small ball," he declared.

It is now officially big-ball time.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, (D-Nev.), said as much on Thursday.

"I think it is now, with what Cantor and Kyl have done, in the hands of the speaker, the president, and ... me," said Reid, describing what will now be a three-men-in-a-tub approach to taking on the nation's debt-ceiling crisis.

Reid said that no other groups or gangs would negotiate the deal, noting, "I think we are beyond gangs of five and gangs of sixes."

Reid also described the move by Cantor and Kyl "untoward and terribly disappointing."

In fact, Cantor and other members of the Biden panel had long been suggesting their efforts would be to merely devise an outline of an agreement, and that it would be up to Obama, Boehner, and Reid to strike the final deal.

That did not stop the speculation and palace intrigue on Thursday surrounding the circumstances of Cantor's sudden announcement that he was quitting.

Much of that had centered on whether Cantor had even consulted and coordinated with Boehner and other top Republicans on his decision to leave the Biden panel--or whether he just simply left the speaker holding the bag on negotiations that he saw leading to compromises he could not politically countenance.

Boehner himself offered little insight, either way, saying only, "I understand his frustration. I understand why he did what he did." Boehner went on to reassert that tax hikes remain, for Republicans, a topic off the table in negotiations. He said any tax hike would not pass the House.

Presented by

Billy House

Bill House is a staff writer (Congress) for National Journal.

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