House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., meets with reporters in his office at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, June 13, 2011. Cantor praised Vice President Joe Biden for his shepherding of the bi-partisan Congressional panel working to solve the debt crisis. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) (AP)

Eric Cantor's debt ceiling hissy fit

The House majority leader picks up his marbles and repeats his mantra: No tax hikes, or we shoot the hostage


Andrew Leonard
June 24, 2011 12:47AM (UTC)

An enormous quantity of pixels has been wasted in the wake of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's Thursday announcement that he is abandoning negotiations on a debt ceiling deal with the White House. Cantor's explanation that he is frustrated at Democratic insistence that "tax hikes" be part of any long-term deficit reduction deal has inspired an impressive outburst of blogospheric game theorizing.

One popular analysis: There's a split in the Republican camp! Speaker of the House John Boehner knows that revenue increases have to be included in any deal, and Cantor wants to avoid any taint of any such heresy. And then, once the deal is done, Cantor will lead a coup to depose the apostate.

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Or maybe, by leaving, Cantor is giving cover to Boehner to do just such a deal! By withdrawing now, he and the other GOP hard-liners who will refuse to vote for lifting the debt ceiling under any circumstances will maintain their purity while Boehner cobbles together enough votes from Democrats and relatively sane Republicans to get a deal passed.

Well, political bloggers have to write about something, and the debt ceiling is the biggest game in town, but really, among all the the posturing and finger-pointing and blame-game spin and counterspin, what have we learned today that we didn't already know? Democrats want revenue increases as part of any long-term deficit-reduction deal, and Republicans refuse to consider any such thing, no how, no way, not even if hell freezes over with every GOP representative and senator stuck neck-deep in the ice with brimstone down on their heads.

Isn't this where we started? Hasn't Republican intransigence on revenue increases been assumed from the beginning? Hasn't the Democratic side, led by Vice President Joe Biden, consistently held firm on the totally understandable position that a deal requires concessions by both sides?

My takeaway from today's news is that Democrats are sticking to their position -- let's make a deal -- while Republicans are remaining firm on theirs: give us everything we want or we kill the hostage.

If Democrats maintain their resolve, the Republican position is not sustainable. This hostage can't be killed. Wall Street and the business community are a lot less worried about revenue increases than they are about the consequences of a debt default. The closer the deadline for a deal comes, the more nervous they are going to get. Eric Cantor can throw all the hissy fits he wants, but he's not going to change that calculus.


Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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