Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) attributed Republicans’ exit from deficit talks on their refusal to budge on tax cuts and said their intransigence on the issue threatened to derail a deal.
Pelosi and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), the ranking member of the Budget Committee, said at a press conference that they were told of Cantor’s exit only after they left a morning meeting at the White House on the debt ceiling vote.
“We left the meeting to find that Leader Cantor had walked out of the meetings….because Democrats want to raise taxes,” Pelosi said. “Yes, we do want to remove tax subsidies from big oil, we want to remove tax breaks from corporations that send jobs overseas. That list goes on.”
Van Hollen told reporters he was “disappointed” by Cantor’s exit, saying the talks “had been proceeding well, although there is no doubt that there were some very difficult issues” that needed to be resolved.
“The reality here is until our Republican colleagues are more concerned about our need to reduce the deficit than they are worried about what Grover Norquist will say, were going to have a really difficult time reducing the deficit,” he said.
The DCCC joined in on the “inflexible Republicans” line, sending out a statement saying the GOP “have no interest in compromise.”
But House Democrats’ account of Cantor’s departure raise as many questions as it answers, offering yet another differing version of exactly what is driving the Majority Leader’s move.
While Cantor said taxes were the main obstacle to talks, he noted that he and Vice President Joe Biden were making significant progress and indicated that the current sticking points were merely beyond his authority to negotiate without Speaker Boehner’s participation. Reading between the lines, the suggestion was that he wasn’t blowing up the talks at all — one might even speculate that Republicans were budging from their no-taxes position, but needed Boehner’s approval to clear the way forward forward.
That idea seemed dashed, however, as Boehner doubled down on his anti-tax rhetoric on Thursday, redrawing his party’s line in the sand.
But Boehner’s intransigence fed into a third possible narrative of a behind-the-scenes power struggle in the House GOP, in which Cantor deliberately is tagging in the Speaker to complete the politically unpopular task of conceding tax increases necessary to secure any major deal. Boehner did little to tamp down speculation over Cantor’s move on Thursday, offering a less then enthusiastic response
to a reporter’s question on whether he supported the decision. Asked by TPM about the timing of Cantor’s exit, a spokesman for Boehner did not address whether he had been informed of the decision prior to its announcement.
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.