Thursday, June 23, 2011

Key Republicans leave debt talks as Obama meets with Democrats

Deficit talks in danger as Eric Cantor bails

Eric Cantor arrives at the Blair House in Washington. | AP Photo
'The Democrats continue to insist that any deal must include tax increases,' Cantor said. | AP Photo Close
Republicans launched a concerted campaign Thursday to draw President Barack Obama more directly into deficit-reduction talks, with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor saying that he will no longer participate in White House talks until the president has personally resolved the divisive issue of taxes.
Cantor’s decision came as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) delivered a broadside on the floor, also keyed to the tax issue and titled “Where’s the President?”
“For weeks lawmakers have worked around the clock to hammer out a plan that would help us to avert a crisis we all know is coming,” McConnell said. “So it’s worth asking: Where in the world has President Obama been for the last month.”
“What does he propose? What is he willing to do to reduce the debt and avoid the crisis that is building on his watch.”
Cantor had sent mixed signals earlier this week, first saying that he wanted greater involvement by the president and then confirming that he remained committed to the talks led by Vice President Joe Biden. His decision now, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, caught even some in the GOP leadership by surprise. And it comes just as Cantor himself has been on the defensive in the talks over Democratic demands for greater cuts from defense spending.
Asked if he supported Cantor’s decision to pull out of the talks, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said “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.”
There was no confirmation that Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) would also pull out of the talks and Boehner’s reaction suggests he is in no hurry to jump in himself. But the pressure will be on the speaker to pick up the baton given the August deadline looming on raising the federal debt ceiling.

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