Now that the debt ceiling talks have reached the point where Democrats are demanding tax increases, Eric Cantor and Jon Kyl are claiming that tax hikes are above their paygrade, withdrawing from the bipartisan negotiations led by Joe Biden, and leaving the matter up to John Boehner and the president. From Talking Points Memo:
"We've reached the point where the dynamic needs to change,'' Cantor said. "It is up to the president to come in and talk to the speaker. We've reached the end of this phase. Now is the time for these talks to go into abeyance."
After the Biden-led talks reportedly reached a rough outline of agreement on spending cuts, tax cuts were inevitably going to be the sticking point for negotiations. Of course Cantor doesn't want to be the one held responsible for caving on tax increases. In recent days, Boehner and McConnell have been increasingly vocal about their opposition to any tax hikes. If anyone has to compromise with Democrats, Cantor would prefer that it were Boehner.
Cantor's exit increases the possibility that Boehner does hammer out a compromise with Obama, one that includes ending various tax breaks. In that case, Boehner gets the deal done, but loses standing among conservatives -- possibly to Cantor's benefit.
By removing himself from the talks, though, Cantor may at the same time have improved the GOP's leverage. Boehner has been adamant in his opposition to raising taxes, and now he has the last word. He can control the timeline of the negotiations, and he has a plausible explanation for making huge demands on Obama -- namely, that he's afraid for his job if he's the one to sell out the party on taxes.
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