ThinkProgress War Room Progress Reports June 23, 2011
Republicans Take Their Ball and Go Home
Vice President Joe Biden has been leading negotiations among a bipartisan group of lawmakers to hammer out a long-term deficit reduction package in time to avert a U.S. default on its obligations caused by the GOP’s refusal to raise the debt ceiling (more on that here) — something that must happen by Aug. 2.
Who: Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-AZ), the Republican negotiators taking part in the bipartisan budget talks being led by Vice President Biden.
What: Republican negotiators bailing on the bipartisan talks being led by Vice President to avert an economically calamitous U.S. default on its obligations.
Why: Republicans offered two complaints today. The faux process complaint, offered by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on the Senate floor this morning, was that president has been not involved enough, which apparently somehow justifies the Republican negotiators becoming completely uninvolved.
Their substantive complaint was that Democrats are insisting on “tax hikes” to balance out the trillions in entitlement and other spending cuts being demanded by Republicans. What Republicans don’t tell you is that when they say “tax hikes,” they really mean things like closing tax loopholes and taking away the billions in wasteful subsidies lavished on Big Oil every year.
What’s really going on: Republicans are playing a game of political musical chairs, knowing full well that they will have to eventually concede to some revenue increases (e.g. a recent poll found that 64 percent of voters would be in favor of eliminating the oil tax breaks). It seems that Cantor would rather have Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), whom Cantor suggested needed to be brought in to resolve the tax issue, be the one without a chair when the music stops and a Republican leader has to agree to some revenue increases — something that is bitterly opposed by Boehner’s fractious, Tea Party-dominated caucus in the House of Representatives. The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein explains:
Cantor has the credibility with the Tea Party that Boehner lacks. But that’s why Cantor won’t cut the deal. The Tea Party-types support him because he’s the guy who won’t cut the deal. He can’t sign off on tax increases without losing his power base. But if he’s able to throw it back to Boehner, and Boehner cuts the deal, that’s all good for Cantor: Boehner becomes weaker and he becomes stronger. Which is why Boehner will also have trouble making this deal. It’ll mean he made the concessions that Cantor, the true conservative, didn’t. That’s not how he holds onto the gavel in this Republican Party.
Cantor is putting personal power before country here, and in a very dangerous way. If Boehner actually does manage to cut a decent deal despite Cantor’s effort to throw him under the bus, he may not hold on as leader of his party, but unlike Cantor, he’ll deserve to. For better or worse, this is when we learn whether anyone on the Republican Party’s leadership team is actually prepared to lead.
In one sentence: Republicans are not only willing to risk economic calamity to preserve billions in tax breaks for Big Oil, the wealthy, and other special interests, but now it seems they may also be willing to do so just to maintain their own personal political power.
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