Speaker John Boehner doesn’t sound too enthusiastic about being called off the bench by Majority Leader Eric Cantor to handle tax issues in deficit talks. Cantor announced earlier on Thursday that he and negotiating partner Joe Biden had reached the limits of their authority and needed Boehner and President Obama to step in to break the impasse.
Asked at a previously scheduled press conference on the Hill minutes after Cantor’s announcement whether he backed the move, Boehner was circumspect.
“I understand his frustration, I understand why he did what he did, but I think those talks could continue if they’re willing to take the tax hikes off the table,” he said.
One possible interpretation of Cantor’s pullout was that he needed Boehner’s authority to negotiate revenue increases necessary to complete a far-reaching deal with Democrats, but Boehner made repeatedly clear on Thursday that he had not budged at all on the issue.
“Tax hikes are off the table,” he said. “First of all, raising taxes is going to destroy jobs….second, a tax hike cannot pass the US House of Representatives — it’s not just a bad idea, it doesn’t have the votes and it can’t happen. And third, the American people don’t want us to raise taxes. They know we have a spending problem.”
A Senior Democratic aide suggested to TPM earlier that Cantor “threw Boehner under the bus” by calling on him to leap into talks, keeping his own hands clean of any tax increases unpopular with the GOP base.
Pushing back on the notion, a senior GOP aide told TPM in an e-mail that 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.”
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.