Oh my: GOP pulls out of Biden’s debt-ceiling talks

posted at 1:50 pm on June 23, 2011 by Allahpundit

Cantor was the sole Republican participant from the House and he quit this morning. Kyl, the only GOP senator involved, followed a little later.

Note to self: Buy gold.

Mr. Cantor, in an interview after a negotiating session he described as bitterly contentious, said he would not be attending Thursday’s scheduled meeting of the bipartisan deficit-reduction leadership group because he believed it was time for the negotiations to move to a higher level.

“We’ve reached the point where the dynamic needs to change,” Mr. 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.”

Still, Mr. Cantor remained optimistic about the prospects for a deal. He said the Biden group had already made significant progress and had tentatively identified more than $2 trillion in spending cuts over the next 10 years. But he said there could be no agreement on an overall package without breaking the impasse between Republicans’ refusal to accept any tax increase, and Democrats insistence that some tax increases be part of the deal

Mr. Cantor’s move marks a major turning point in the negotiations, which are trying to craft a major deficit-reduction initiative to clear the way for a needed increase in the federal debt limit before Aug. 2. Most participants had expected the negotiations would be passed off to Mr. Obama and higher level congressional leader, but Mr. Cantor’s move may force the shift sooner than many expected.

Who’s the real target of this move, Obama or Boehner? The Democratic spin is that Cantor and Kyl don’t want to commit political suicide with the base by placing themselves on the hook for approving tax hikes, so they’re punting the negotiations to the Speaker (and McConnell) under the pretense of “changing the dynamic” or whatever. Maybe that’s true of Cantor, but Kyl’s retiring so he has nothing to lose. And if it is true of Cantor, then Boehner’s a fool for appointing him to the Biden panel and not anticipating that he’d get squeamish and try to pass the buck once tax hikes ended up on the table. The real strategy here, I take it, is simply to force President Above-The-Fray into the mix, as he’ll be more reluctant than congressional Democrats to take a hard line on broad tax hikes knowing that it’ll make him the face of that position with the election looming. And even if he does, inevitably, endorse limited tax hikes — “tax the rich” always polls well, although plenty of wealthy donors will bristle — it’ll still help the GOP to have O’s fingerprints on a plan that would cut both discretionary and mandatory spending before the Dems’ Mediscare campaign gearing up.

Is there a downside, though, in going so far as to break off talks? Pew’s new poll shows independents almost evenly divided on which side to blame if there’s no debt deal. The fact that it’s the GOP that’s walking away and the GOP that’s refusing to make a key concession in the name of compromise — the Democrats, remember, have already tentatively agreed to something like $2 trillion in cuts over 10 years — makes things nice and easy for The One and liberal spin doctors if there’s no deal and the U.S. ends up defaulting. I doubt it’ll come to that (in fact, McConnell’s already floated the idea of a short-term increase in the debt ceiling to keep talks going if they can’t meet the August 2 deadline), but O can surely do damage on the stump as a personally popular politician hammering the idea that we’d have a grand-ish bargain if only those darned wingnuts would agree to raise taxes on rich people. Exit question via Red State: Isn’t $2 trillion in cuts over 10 years really not remotely equal to the task of making a dent in our debt problem? The debt ceiling was supposed to be the GOP’s big card in forcing major concessions on spending. What happened?

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