House Majority Leader Eric Cantor Thursday said he was pulling out of the bipartisan budget talks headed by Vice President Joe Biden for now because the group has reached an impasse over taxes that only President Barack Obama and Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) could resolve.
Mr. Cantor, in an interview after a negotiating session he described as bitterly contentious, said he would not be attending Thursday's scheduled meeting of the bipartisan deficit-reduction leadership group because he believed it was time for the negotiations to move to a higher level. "We've reached the point where the dynamic needs to change,'' Mr. Cantor said. "It is up to the president to come in and talk to the speaker. We've reached the end of this phase. Now is the time for these talks to go into abeyance."
I wonder what may have triggered the acrimony he describes? Could it have been Democrats' jaw-dropping, stuck-on-spend new "stimulus" proposal? Cantor has now raised the stakes by kicking negotiations up the totem pole -- essentially demanding presidential leadership. Good luck with that. The president isn't interested in leading on these issues, a fact he's demonstrated time and again. He initially punted debt questions to a bipartisan commission. Then he largely ignored its recommendations. He punted on these questions in his woeful 2012 budget proposal. It was defeated unanimously in the Senate. He punted the question to yet another bipartisan commission. It's coming apart at the seams. (For extra irony, recall that Obama savaged John McCain in 2008 for proposing a bipartisan commission, deriding the suggestion as the "oldest Washington stunt in the book").
The only thing the president has seemed willing to do is deliver speeches. He did so in April, when he unveiled his do-over budget "plan," which offered no specifics aside from promoting a more muscular unelected Medicare rationing board, and forming the now-stalled Biden group. In an effort to deflect the well-earned criticism that they haven't brought any meaningful budget plan to the table, Democrats have insisted that the president's April "vision" fits the bill. It does not. Don't take my word for it; just ask CBO Director Doug Elmendorf, who threw ice cold water on Democrats' go-to talking point at a House Budget Committee hearing this morning. Oh, snap:
Wow. That makes two devastating soundbytes from non-partisan number crunchers in as many days. Bravo, House Republicans. Elmendorf wasn't through, either. Reuters' Jim Pethokoukis has been live tweeting his testimony, and the CBO chief has been churning out gem after gem. A sampling:
@JimPethokoukis - Boom Boom Pow! CBO's Elmendorf: "Higher marginal tax rates do reduce economic activity ."
@JimPethokoukis - Ka-Blam! CBO Elmendorf: Raising tax rates on rich hurts more than raising tax on everyone else. (Dem wasn't expecting that answer).
@JimPethokoukis - CBO's Elmendorf: "Uncertainly about federal policy is diminishing household and business spending."
Puncturing one lefty article of faith after another. Priceless.
UPDATE - Speaker Boehner is backing up his second in command: "These conversations could continue if [Democrats] take the tax hikes out of the conversation."
UPDATE II - The Senate GOP's representative at the Biden talks, Jon Kyl, is reportedly heading for the exits, too:
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) has pulled out of bipartisan debt talks led by Vice President Joseph Biden after declaring an impasse over taxes, and Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) is expected to follow suit shortly, sources said.