Key Republican pulls out of debt ceiling talks, negotiations on verge of collapse
June 23rd, 2011
02:28 PM ET
12 years ago

Key Republican pulls out of debt ceiling talks, negotiations on verge of collapse

Washington (CNN)-With only weeks to go before the country hits the debt ceiling, bipartisan negotiations were on the verge of collapsing as one of two Congressional Republicans walked away from the talks, and the other was unclear about future discussions.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor withdrew from the negotiations Thursday, saying they had reached an impasse with Democrats over tax issues and it was time for President Obama to get involved to broker a deal that would pave the way for a vote to raise the debt ceiling this summer. Arizona Republican Senator Jon Kyl said that it would be difficult to continue negotiations with only one Republican at the table.

Talks planned for Thursday afternoon were scrapped after Vice President Joe Biden decided not to attend in light of Cantor’s announcement.

Cantor, who represented the House GOP in the discussions, said "there is not support in the House for a tax increase, and I don’t believe now is the time to raise taxes in light of our current economic situation. Regardless of the progress that has been made, the tax issue must be resolved before discussions can continue."

Cantor called on President Barack Obama to step in. “I believe it is time for the President to speak clearly and resolve the tax issue," he said.

An aide to Kyl told CNN that he also feels that the talks have gone as far as they can go with the players involved and the President now needs to personally get involved.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen, one of the House Democrats involved in the meetings, said there was no indication at yesterday’s session that the Republicans would stop participating.

Van Hollen said he learned the news as he was leaving a meeting with the President Thursday morning and was “disappointed.”

“They had been proceeding well although there is no doubt that there were some very difficult issues that needed to be decided,“ Van Hollen told reporters.

The bipartisan group, led by Vice President Biden, has been meeting for weeks behind closed doors to discuss various proposals to cut spending, from both discretionary programs and entitlement programs, such as Medicare. They have released very few details about areas of agreement, but Cantor said the group made significant progress agreeing to trillions in spending cuts, and noted “we have established a blueprint that could institute the fiscal reforms needed to start getting our fiscal house in order.” They had originally hoped to reach some sort of tentative agreement by July 1.

Biden released a written statement Thursday commending the "progress" of the talks thus far.

"Over the past several weeks, the bipartisan debt talks have made significant progress on a blueprint for putting America’s fiscal house in order," he said. "Working together in good faith, we have found many areas of common ground and potential agreement on substantial savings...We have made real headway and laid the groundwork to get this done."

And he had a slightly different view of that progress, saying, "As all of us at the table said at the outset, the goal of these talks was to report our findings back to our respective leaders."

"The next phase is in the hands of those leaders, who need to determine the scope of an agreement that can tackle the problem and attract bipartisan support. For now the talks are in abeyance as we await that guidance. We stand ready to meet again as necessary," he continued.

The group was working toward an agreement that would raise the debt ceiling by more than $2 trillion with an equivalent amount of spending cuts over the next ten years. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said he expects the country to reach the debt ceiling by August 2, effectively halting the nation’s ability to borrow money and forcing the government into default on its obligations.

Multiple Democratic sources claim Cantor backed out of the talks because he doesn't want his fingerprints on an agreement that could face opposition from many House Republicans.

Several sources familiar with the bipartisan meeting on Wednesday said that it was incredibly tense and difficult.

Democrats involved in the negotiations have repeatedly said increasing tax revenues, from proposals such as ending subsidies for big oil companies, or companies producing ethanol, should be considered as part of the deal. Van Hollen said there was no justification for opposing those items “if you are serious about reducing the deficit.”

But the Democratic source—who would not speak on the record about the closed talks–said the Republicans in the negotiations have refused to accept any proposals that end any subsidies. "They're not willing to accept a dime of tax increases, we call it closing tax loopholes"

A Republican leadership, who also asked not to be identified, said it was the Democrats holding up progress because they refused to accept major changes to entitlement programs.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell went to the Senate floor and echoed Cantor’s message.

"Either someone on the other side has forgotten that there is strong bipartisan, bipartisan, opposition in Congress to raising taxes or someone is acting in bad faith. We’ve known for some time that tax hikes would be a poison pill to any deficit reduction proposal,” McConnell said.

As Republicans were stressing their position to keep taxes off the table, the Democratic source maintained the GOP was continuing to push for major cuts to programs that they knew Democrats would oppose.

"Republicans want to cut Medicare, Medicaid and education and want deep cuts because they’re unwilling to cut tax loopholes that benefit special interests,” the source said.

Van Hollen warned that those conservative Republicans who were opposing any deal to raise the debt limit were endangering the economy. “One thing that would take a fragile economy and break it would be for the United States to default on its obligations so nobody should be playing a game of political chicken with this issue.”

Filed under: Chris Van Hollen • Congress • Debt • Eric Cantor • Jon Kyl • Republicans
soundoff (205 Responses)
  1. Publius Novus

    1. Correction CNN. The United States hit the debt ceiling on May 16, 2011. Since that time, the Treasury has been exercising extraordinary powers, including borrowing money from federal retirement accounts, to manage the national fisc.

    2. Kyl says it would be difficult to continue negotiations with only one Republican in the room. True enough. First Coburn left, now Kantor.

    3. But really, do Republicans actually negotiate? Not really. Commenting on Kantor's withdrawal, Speaker Boehner said "These conversations could continue if they take tax hikes out of the conversation." In other words if the Democrats agree to all of the Republicans' "negotiating" points, then the Republicans will continue to "negotiate" to see what additiona concessions they can get from the Democrats.

    4. Republicans are not serious about governing. They have one goal: the defeat of Barack H. Obama in 2012. They will use any means to achieve that end, including impairment of the U.S. economy.

    June 23, 2011 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  2. Jake

    Yes, there is a group that is not negotiating in good faith: Republicans. Negotiation implies give-and-take. If Republicans want Democrats to agree to cuts to programs they support ("take"), they need to be willing to allow some small tax increases, loophole closures, subsidy reductions, or cuts to programs supported by conservatives ("give"). Right now it sounds like all the Republicans are doing is "taking." Standing stubbornly on principle may be good for getting re-elected, but it's a rotten for actually getting things done.

    June 23, 2011 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  3. bb

    Get to work, Cantor. We aren't paying you for this type of bs! Canceling your meetings? No, not acceptable. Get back in there, you weak excuse for a representative of American people! Where are the jobs? What are you doing with your time in DC? What work, if any – because we sure don't see it, are you doing on the economy, the debt? Not acceptable, Cantor!!!

    June 23, 2011 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  4. sonny chapman

    I guess Grover Norquist is running the Republican Party.

    June 23, 2011 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  5. rosaadriana

    Good riddance> Anyone who does not at least put taxes on the table is not serious> Everything should be on table, medicare, defense, ss, AND taxes.

    June 23, 2011 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  6. Chloe in Chatsworth, CA

    It's kind of weird–if the US bond market collapsed some of the biggest hits would be taken by the Republican's chief wealthy backers. On the other hand the resulting bank and insurance company failures, stock market crash and skyrocketing unemployment would virtually guarantee a Republican win of not only the presidency, but both houses of congress, so in the long term their strategy is brilliant.

    June 23, 2011 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  7. a in austin

    Until these issues start hitting the elected officials in their pocket books I don't expect the gop to do anything. The "my way or the highway" talk is nothing but bull. You are elected to represent WE THE PEOPLE. Admit it Cantor, you are so bought and paid for it's unreal. Sadly, you CAN NOT be your own man.

    June 23, 2011 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  8. Frustrated in America

    GOP- Take away from the people and give to corporations. I can't believe that half the country wants to cut their own throats. All you young conservatives, remember this when you have to work until you die (slaves of big business).

    June 23, 2011 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  9. valwayne

    Obama promised us UNEMPLOYMENT wouldn't go over 8%. He's given us9.1%, record long term UNEMPLOYMENT, a record number of people on foodstamps, a failing economy, and trillions and trillions in wasted corrupt spending and Mountains of debt. The democratic Senate hasn't passed a budget in over 2 years? 2 years? Why are we even paying these people a salary when they aren't doing their jobs. And now Obama and the Democrats want to increase taxes and increase spending with another stimulous? Are they totally insane. Obama and the Democrats have done everything wrong and made everything worse. Now they want to do more damage rather than get the massive wasted corrupt spending and debt under control? Look at Greece, that's where Obama is taking us in record time!

    June 23, 2011 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  10. grrace

    We CAN raise taxes on the wealthy because they are not suffering a recession or bad economy. In addition, we all know the GOP has no leg to stand on. If the GOP does not agree to raise the Debt Ceiling, they will be tanking their own constituents/donors. At some point, GOP campaign donors (banks), will force the GOP to raise the Debt Ceiling, regardless. Dems need not make any agreements with the GOP.

    June 23, 2011 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  11. Jake

    in other words...if we walk away, we can't be blamed and it will all be Obama's fault!
    way to lead on jobs, GOP!

    June 23, 2011 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  12. Dean

    Do not raise taxes. Do not close loopholes (yet). Even a trained monkey can understand that that is the best short/medium range solution to economic prosperity. Obama, on the other hand...

    June 23, 2011 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |

    The impasse isn't the democrats, it's the republicans! Canter says the democrats must change, no, the republicans must change. The republicans won't raise taxes on the top 1%, they say it will hurt the economy. You prove, that's part of the same policy that they've had for the last ten years and as anyone can see, it doesn't work! If it did, there would be plenty of jobs right now! How lame is it to insist on something that has not worked, doesn't work now and won't work in the future. Wise up America, it's the republican policies that don't work and they have blocked everything that would have improved our economy just because of the political games that the republicans playing.

    June 23, 2011 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  14. Name king

    Hey it doesn't matter anymore if they don't raise the debt ceiling these repugs has convinced these gullible Americans that this is a good thing. I say let the chips fall where they may.

    June 23, 2011 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  15. Biggge

    These guys are sinking us.....stay and do your jobs... this is Outragous, how are we going to pull ourselves out of this when the groups can't even get along... This is not pre-school, this is our 401k and retirement funds.. I have never seen grown men act so childish..

    June 23, 2011 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  16. Debra From Georgia

    These Republicans are trippin with their cowboyish way. My way or no way, typical Rupublicans.

    June 23, 2011 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  17. sue

    It's all about votes for the's not what is best or good for the people of this country.....if you think they have your interest in mind then you are badly fooled......they want more tax cuts for the weathly, big corporations while they want to take away the medicare from the elderly and those that most desperately need it...there way or no way they don't want to be seen as working with this President or the rest of the GOP and Tea Baggers will tear them up into little pieces......

    June 23, 2011 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  18. Rickster

    Though I'm sure that Obama has nothing of substance to add to the negotiations he has to, at least, do more than vote "present" on this one. Then again, maybe having the most unqualified man to ever hold office weigh in would do more harm then good.

    June 23, 2011 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  19. ATL Guy

    They never had any intention of agreeing to anything. They want this country to fall apart so that they can win the next election. They saw that stalling worked on souring the public on healthcare reform: Chuck Grassley was part of the healthcare gang and dragged out the process for so long and then came out and said Democrats were going to kill grandma. Obama did not elevate any of the gangs this time around because he caught on to the fecklessness of the Republicans: they pretend that they're negotiating and then they walk away anyway. The fact that Cantor was involved from the get go was indicative of the Republican's strategy: don't negotiate because you're not in charge.

    June 23, 2011 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  20. Roscoe

    They will make a deal to raise the debt ceiling. Cantor is trying to keep from getting an extra dose of tea bagging by supporting the tax increases. Cantor is a wimp.

    June 23, 2011 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  21. Peggy - TX

    House Majority Leader Eric Cantor withdrew from the negotiations for no other reason then he wished to sabotage the economy in a miss-directed effort to unseat President Obama and regain political power in the GOP.

    Sure that is not what is said, he said some BS something or the other that totally lacks any creditability. His actions speak much louder then any lies he speaks. President Obama is just one branch of the Government.

    The Republicans, with their lock hold on the House and Senate and with a few but very wealthy powerful business people backing them, are using their power and scary political savvy to block every effort by this president to keep the economy afloat.

    June 23, 2011 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  22. Biggge

    "Republicans want to cut Medicare, Medicaid and education and want deep cuts because they’re unwilling to cut tax loopholes that benefit special interests,
    the Republicans in the negotiations have refused to accept any proposals that end any subsidies. "They're not willing to accept a dime of tax increases, we call it closing tax loopholes"

    Things never change, how much money do the wealthy need....

    June 23, 2011 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  23. Liberal elite=anyone with an education

    Take note, Republicans- Democrats are trying to broker a deal and YOUR representatives simply won't negotiate. You cannot cut your way out of a deficit, any more than I can pay off credit cards simply by not using them. Cantor wants the President to broker this deal because the end result is a foregone conclusion, and they're hoping to use it as political leverage against him.

    June 23, 2011 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  24. Bill from GA

    As long as the repugs take the stand that there can be no tax increase, the talks were useless. If the only solultion is for the dems to give and give some more, destroying all social programs put in place the last 80 years, there is no solution. Our government is based on compromise.

    I blame the President for extending the tax cuts last fall. After that, there is no bargainig position left.

    June 23, 2011 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  25. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    Congressman Cantor, have you been following anything other than Fox News lately? Every time the Republicans in Congress dither on the debt ceiling, Wall Street has a coronary! At some point your inaction is going to cause a complete collapse of the Federal Government's credit. When the Chinese come with foreclosure notices in hand, I expect yours to be one of the first offices emptied.

    June 23, 2011 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
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