Bipartisan negotiations over a deal to raise the debt limit entered a new chapter Thursday as the Republicans’ top negotiator, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, pulled out of talks.
Cantor told the Wall Street Journal that negotiations hadn’t necessarily broken down, but needed help from President Obama and Speaker Boehner to continue. An aide familiar with the talks told TPM that Cantor and Biden had made significant progress towards a deal but that the Majority Leader felt that certain snags may be beyond their negotiating authority.
“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.”
As has been the case since the outset, the most contentious issues is likely revenues: Republicans have been as adamant about keeping tax increases off the table as Democrats have been insistent about their inclusion.
“We have to get over this impasse on taxes,” Cantor 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.”
If tax increases are approved in a final deal, it could be politically beneficial for Cantor to not have his fingerprints on it. Indeed, some observers quickly suggested Cantor has a strong ulterior motive in avoiding elements of the negotiation that sit poorly with the GOP base.
“Eric Cantor just threw Boehner under the bus,” a senior Democratic aide bluntly told TPM. “This move is an admission that there will be a need for revenues in the final deal to cut our deficit, and Cantor doesn’t want to be the one to make that deal.”
A senior Republican aide quickly denied the claim in an email to TPM: “The White House has secretly been negotiating with Senior Republicans behind the Democrat Leaders backs, so it is understandable they don’t understand the dynamic at play.”
Both sides have remained tight-lipped about details of a final deal. Democrats have tried to draw the line at benefit cuts to Medicare, but may be able to find savings elsewhere.
Brian Beutler contributed reporting to this post.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.