Murmurs that Eric Cantor may be undercutting Speaker John Boehner with his decision to drop out of debt ceiling negotiations are getting louder with the news that Cantor barely tipped his boss off on his plans. Boehner received the news only right before the press did, per the AP, leaving him to face reporters at his weekly press conference having barely processed the gamechanging move.The two Republican leaders sent mixed messages that morning, with Cantor suggesting in his initial statements that the talks were progressing well and that he needed Boehner’s approval to work out the toughest issues — i.e. taxes. But Boehner and other GOP leaders quickly retconned that explanation into Cantor quitting because the Republicans won’t raise taxes under any circumstances and Democrats aren’t taking their threats seriously.
The lack of coordination is fueling speculation that Cantor and Boehner are each trying to tag the other with responsibility for making the call on tax increases that will inevitably be a part of any truly significant bipartisan deal. Some observers noted similar tensions during negotiations over a Continuing Resolution as Cantor disavowed knowledge of even basic details of the impending deal in its final stages, giving him a handy out if it failed to win over the base.
The White House, for their part, is spinning Cantor’s exit as moving everyone a step closer to a final deal rather than labeling it a tax tantrum, which is the House Democrats’ read.
“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,” Vice President Joe Biden said in a statement. “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.”