Also, am I right in thinking that the only two times O has walked out on a meeting are today and when he met with Bibi Netanyahu back in March of last year? That’s quite a record of indignation, champ. You really know how to get tough with the enemy.
Cantor said he told the president that the two sides remain so far apart at this point that he doubted they could get to $2.5 trillion in cuts (to match the debt increase requested by the administration, enough to get through the 2012 election) given the time available. President Obama has said he will not sign any increase to the debt ceiling less than that amount, and Cantor had previously insisted that the House would vote no more than one time to increase the debt limit. Cantor said he was willing to abandon his position in order to allow some kind of short-term measure to increase the debt limit and reassure credit markets while negotiations continue, and asked the president if he would be willing to consider this option.
At this point, Cantor explained, the president became “very agitated” and said he had “sat here long enough,” that “Ronald Reagan wouldn’t sit here like this” and “something’s got to give.” Obama then told Republicans they either needed to compromise on their insistence on a dollar for dollar ratio of spending cuts to debt increase or agree to a “grand bargain” including massive tax increases. Before walking out of the room, Cantor said, the president told him: “Eric, don’t call my bluff. I’m going to the American people with this.” He then “shoved back” and said “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
The Democratic spin on what happened is that Cantor “rudely” interrupted The One mid-finger-wag and he got huffy and walked out. As for what he means by “going to the American people,” I don’t want to get my hopes up but we might be in store for another 45-minute lecture tomorrow morning about corporate jets. As an ironic gloss on this drama, read Chuck Todd’s take on how, in principle, Obama and Boehner aren’t all that far apart. If O publicly committed to a truly significant concession, like means-testing for Medicare or raising the eligibility age for Social Security, then maybe the GOP could be persuaded to take another look at letting the Bush tax cuts lapse for the wealthy. But since he won’t, they can’t. Said Boehner to a gaggle of reporters this afternoon, “Dealing with them the last couple months has been like dealing with Jell-o.”
Before he threw his tantrum, Obama also reportedly told Republicans today that Friday’s the deadline for deciding whether both sides should continue to pursue a real deficit-reduction deal or whether they should shift to looking for some sort of fallback plan a la McConnell to avoid default. So, the good news: The first stage of the debt-ceiling drama will kinda sorta be over in the next 48 hours. The bad news: Three more weeks of the next stage to come, guys. Three. More. Weeks.
“This process is confirming what the American people think is the worst about Washington,” the president said. “Everyone is more interested in posturing, political position and protecting their base than in solving problems.”…
“I have shown enormous willingness to compromise and have taken huge heat for it,” he said, “but my responsibility is to the American people and there comes a point when I need to say, ‘Enough.'”
“It cannot all be on us,” the president said, arguing that Republicans need to give on the revenue side of things as Democrats are willing to do so on spending cuts.
Weigel also clarifies the terms of the actual dispute between O and Cantor. Cantor says they can get a deal for $1.5 trillion in cuts through the House. Problem is, the GOP’s vowed not to raise the debt ceiling by more than the amount in total cuts and a $1.5 trillion debt-ceiling hike won’t get us past the election next year. That makes The Perpetual Campaigner unhappy, so either the GOP will have to step back from its vow or O will have to agree to deal with the debt ceiling again — just a few months before election day, when the incentives on both sides to hold out will be even greater than they are now.