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. Cog in the wheel

    I vote to rescind the budget agreement Obama made with the GOP last year–and AT THE SAME TIME cut federal spending and eliminate corporate tax loopholes for oil companies and subsides for ethanol producers.

    1) restore the Social Security tax to the previous higher rate (6.2%, I believe, instead of the 4% now in place) and
    2) restore the fed income tax on those making $250K a year to pre-Bush levels.

    That would incrementally raise taxes on all Americans and provide more government revenue. Reducing spending and increasing tax rates to pre-Bush era is the way to go. And yes, I personally would be paying more taxes.

    June 23, 2011 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  2. AZ DEM

    How can anyone look at the GOP and think these are the people that we want representing us in the House or any office. When they don't get their way they will shut down any bipartisan deal that can benefit the country ALL because they don't want to increase taxes on millionaires. Every day something comes out that just pulls me further and further to the left. Its ok because I think in 2012 they are on their way out of the majority in the House and they will have a long road ahead of them to get the White House back EVER again.

    June 23, 2011 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  3. Chillbo

    Things would just be fine if all the Republics would walk out the door and just keep going.

    June 23, 2011 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  4. gary mildenstein

    Our leaders act like little children.........The Republicans won't raise taxes, ....the Dems won't change entitlements......Raise taxes on the upper class, admit Obama Care was (at least temporarily ) a bad idea. Leave Medicare alone, leave Social Security alone. We the middle class have paid for these two programs with our life sweat and blood. Our leaders have squandered every opportunity to safe guard them.
    Find the courage to start prosecuting the blood sucking bankers, pharmasuitical industry, and the corruption in government, and do away with money grubbing these things and our other problems will be alot more fixable.

    June 23, 2011 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  5. Greenspam

    Debt ceiling kept going up under GWB and GOP didn't say a word, neither did Dems actually... Now that a black man is the President, GOP rather see this country fail than to give in.

    June 23, 2011 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  6. Senior Citizen

    Why is it ok for all the Big Business to get all kinds of tax breaks, the rich hire lawyers to do their taxes so they don't have to pay even what most people making $50,000 or less pay and yet all the Republicans can do is try and get rid of Medicare and Social Security. I thought they were going to find jobs when they were elected last November and haven't heard of them doing anything except trying to do away with women's rights, Social Security and Medicare. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer is the mantra of the Republicans.

    June 23, 2011 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  7. Bill

    "Republicans" aka TEA party in politics right now are an embarrassment to America! If there is a "sale" over the weekend at your favorite department store, you can beat that the "price" will return to "normal" after the weekend! TAXES MUST GO UP!!! YES, You pay more taxes....that us because you make MORE money!!!

    June 23, 2011 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  8. Stu Steinberg

    Cantor and McConnell are weasels. The contention that tax cuts create jobs has been thoroughly discredited and the GOP stand is nothing short of continuing to serve their corporate and Wall Street masters. The bribes they receive from lobbyists and Wall Street in exchange for their votes cannot be denied and people who think that closing the corporate and personal tax loopholes is wrong need to have their heads examined. If the debt ceiling is not raised because raising taxes is "off the table" for the GOP, the American people will not be fooled about whose fault this will be. Those who argue that failure to raise the debt ceiling's consequences have been overstated or exaggerated will learn the truth of their idiocy. When soldiers in harms' way are not paid, and recipients of veterans benefits and Social Security do not get their checks, it will be the GOP who is blamed. Every poll shows that a huge majority of us believe that taxes should be raised for the uber rich if it will help balance the budget and pay down our debt. If this does not occur, voters will turns these scumbags out in 2012.

    June 23, 2011 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  9. GaryB

    Let's see, I've paid into medicare for close to 35 years now, but under the Republican plan, when I retire in 18 or 19 years, I can look forward to receiving vouchers to purchase insurance on the private market. As a small business owner/self-employed person for the last seven years, I can tell you that the private insurance market is horrifically expensive and penalizes anyone who is not, say, 25 to 30 years old. In other words, the vouchers will most likely be nearly worthless, at best covering maybe half the premiums of a $5,000 deductible catastrophic policy. It's a sacrifice they say we half to make. But even suggest taking away some of the special tax credits from the oil industry, and the Republicans draw a line in the sand. So sacrifice is fine if you're middle class or poor, but ask the rich to be very slightly less richer, and that's a sacrifice the Republicans won't make. Oh, and by the way, if you believe the line that making the rich richer creates jobs for the rest of us, I've got some beachfront property in Death Valley to sell you.

    June 23, 2011 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  10. Jim Angone

    Theres the problem...if cantor acts like a child and refuses to hammer things out he is not qualified to be in the position of negotiating our Country's startagy for getting us out of the huge economic issues we have. He sounds like an imature politician.
    When the chips are down, like they are for the US economy, of course there are going to be a difference of opinion amoong people on both sides of the aisle. If you stick with the dialogue, eventually a startegy of mixed ideas will emerge.

    The Republicans have really taken on the Tea partiers persona.."I'm going to stiomp my feet and yell until everybody does as I say".

    God help this country and especially the middle class folks because it seems we cant depend on the idiots in Washington.

    June 23, 2011 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  11. RobS

    Well, Mr. Cantor, if you are wrong then your retirement will be worth the same as mine. Nothing. In fact, your way of life may permanently change if we default in the international arena. But let's do it your way and test it out.

    June 23, 2011 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  12. Elizabeth

    Anyone who thinks we can get out of debt without tax increases is being dishonest. The Republicans need to stop pandering and man up about it.

    June 23, 2011 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  13. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    What does Cantor and the other Republicans think will help? Raising taxes on the wealthier Americans (or all of really) is the only thing that will help. I agree that removing subsidies for ethenol and other items will help, but that is only a small bit. We need to reduce the spending in the military. Medicare should put some income limits on it - anyone making over $250,000 should have their rates doubled is something that might help. We could always cut all the earmarks that projects that Republicans have championed over the years.

    The point that everyone is missing is that Denny Haster never even started this when he was in charge of the House! Where was George W. Bush (who has an MBA) and why didn't think to reduce the debt when times were good instead of having tax cuts? I think the GOP is having an easy time because they demand that the Democrats solve the problems that everyone has help create.

    June 23, 2011 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  14. Roger47

    Our economy was strong in the 50's, when the top tax rate was91%.. Our economy was strong in the 60's, when the rate was between 91% and 70%. Our economy was strong in the 70's, when the top rate was 70%. We can afford to raise the top rate, a lot. If Republicans were serious aboout the deficit, they would allow tax increases to be part of the solution...
    The fact is, they could not care less about the deficit. They know that the wealthy and the corporations will reward them, and that Fox will convince its viewers that taking from schools to give to the rich is a good thing because public schools are bad.

    June 23, 2011 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  15. Rock God

    The GOP will crash the American economy if they think it will help them in 2012. Nevermind all the Americans it wipes out.

    June 23, 2011 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  16. Rick from Chicago

    Since republicans are such big fans of outsourcing .. is there any way we can outsource all of them to the other side of the Pacific ocean? Then they won't have to turn the U.S. into China – they'll already be there.

    June 23, 2011 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  17. Charlie in Maine

    Hey GOP what ever happened to fiscal responsibility? Refusal to raise teh debt limit will wreck our economy but I guess you don't care. It is more important to score points with your tea party fanatical base you freakin bunch of morons.

    June 23, 2011 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  18. The Greedy Old Pigs have declared class war on America!

    Cantor is just another sleazy GOBPbaggin' Kochwh0re. Raise taxes on the filthy rich instead of bowing to their every whim. Our country will be much better off when that happens.

    June 23, 2011 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  19. Duane - St.Pete FL

    cut spending

    June 23, 2011 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  20. Tom

    Cut everything and increase taxes.

    June 23, 2011 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  21. Russ A.

    Walk out on your job? How about a pink slip? Non of you in Congress are doing a very good job. My advice? Get your surly, behind back in there and work out a deal to keep OUR government running. I am an INDEPENDANT and I am disgusted with Congress holding the U.S. hostage to Party Politics. This is NOT what the founding fathers had in mind. All of you have become an insult to our Democracy. None of you heard the call this past January/February or you forgot ... There is a storm brewing across this land demanding Solutions not Rhetoric, Logic not Emotions. During the next decade you knuckle heads are going to be out of jobs!

    June 23, 2011 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  22. WatchDawg

    @Duane-St Pete's. Have you been in a Fox News induced coma for the last 8 years?!? Your stimulus spending was approved Bush and inherited by President Obama.
    I know this is hard for you GOP'rs to understand, but for the sake of everyone else. Please turn the TV off and go for a walk, get some fresh air and get off the Fox News 'everything President Obama can do, we can't so we will bitch about it' mantra.

    June 23, 2011 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  23. Anonymous

    “The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. Government can’t pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government’s reckless fiscal policies...

    ...And the cost of our debt is one of the fastest growing expenses in the Federal budget. This rising debt is a hidden domestic enemy, robbing our cities and States of critical investments in infrastructure like bridges, ports, and levees; robbing our families and our children of critical investments in education and health care reform; robbing our seniors of the retirement and health security they have counted on. Every dollar we pay in interest is a dollar that is not going to investment in America’s priorities.

    Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that “the buck stops here.” Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.”

    comment provided by then Senator Obama in 2006 debit limit raising discussions!!!!!

    P.S. please do not delete this time.

    June 23, 2011 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  24. Roland

    Maybe they had a tee time.

    June 23, 2011 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  25. Jordan

    I am under the impression that the U.S. reached the debt ceiling in May. Just FYI. 🙂

    June 23, 2011 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
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