Photo: AP Photo/Charles Dharapak
Did the famously calm President finally lose his cool? Did the outspoken House Majority Leader Eric Cantor cross the line when negotiating with the nation’s commander in chief?Behind the he-said, he-said argument, what is certain is that the debt limit and deficit reduction talks are in shambles this morning after a highly public — and personal — spat. The accusation late Wednesday from Eric Cantor that President Barack Obama “abruptly” and “angrily” left the negotiations capped days of reports that indicated the negotiations — and the relationship between the two leaders — had soured. But few could have imagined it was this bad.
For Obama the debt talks are now about more than the nation’s fiscal stability. He is willing to stake his presidency on gaining the balanced outcome he desires.
“I have sat here long enough and no other President – Ronald Reagan wouldn’t sit here like this,” he told Cantor. “I’ve reached my limit. This may bring my presidency down, but I will not yield on this.”
Wednesday’s talks centered on spending cuts, an area in which both sides largely agree that significant cuts need to be made. The meeting this afternoon will turn to new revenues, an issue on which Democrats and Republicans have almost no common ground after months of talks and mixed messages. Obama believes both must be included for a deal to be “balanced.”
The President has set Friday as the deadline to make progress on a deal, according to both Cantor and Democratic sources. Bloomberg has reported he may seek to keep the negotiations from continuing in public by inviting lawmakers to Camp David this weekend to iron out an agreement.
Cantor said he was upset that less and less spending cuts were being included in a deficit reduction deal. The negotiations have scaled back to considering about $1.4 trillion in cuts that came out of the talks led by Vice President Joe Biden — the talks Cantor quit three weeks ago.
The firebrand Majority Leader has eclipsed Speaker of the House John Boehner for influence in the talks, making the hard line positions of conservative Republicans for steep spending cuts without new revenues the official stance of his caucus.
“Nothing can get through the House right now,” he said, POLITICO reported. “Nothing.”
Obama said he would veto any legislation passed by Congress that did not raise the debt limit through the 2012 election, and insisted again that the deal do more substantial reforms.
“Eric, don’t call my bluff,” Obama said moments before leaving the room. “I’m going to take this to the American people.”
The next few days will likely prove to be pivotal in the negotiations. Obama will make his case to the public again, while trying to keep the rest of the negotiations away from the press.
Insiders say a deal must be reached by Tuesday in order to guarantee it can be passed and implemented in time to ensure the government can meet its obligations on August 3.
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