House Speaker John Boehner blinked. Unable to get his caucus behind the Grand Bargain to raise the debt ceiling, this weekend Mr. Boehner gave up trying. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who quit the Biden talks late last month, to now call the spending cuts Vice President Joe Biden negotiated an acceptable framework for a smaller deal.
Democratic Congressman Chris Van Hollen reminds the world that Democrats agreed to the $2 trillion or so in Biden cuts only as part of a package that also closes the corporate tax loopholes Mr. Cantor has defended. So we’re right back where we started, only Mr. Cantor looks to be driving the process now. “It does not matter if John Boehner is a reasonable man,” writes Ezra Klein. What Mr. Cantor wants is the repudiation of the Republicans’ own idea, the 85:15 mix of spending cuts and tax increases that Republicans proposed in March and Democrats delivered. He’s playing to the wealthy donors and the tax-phobic right, while elbowing Speaker Boehner aside.
If you’re wondering what Democrats think they might gain here, try this from the New York Times:
Democrats say that because of Mr. Boehner’s retreat, they will now be able to portray Republicans as refusing major Democratic concessions on spending in order to protect tax breaks for big businesses and rich Americans.
Quick caveats: The Democratic base is not happy about those concessions on spending, especially the cutting President Obama proposed for Medicare and Social Security. What’s more, Republicans trying to make a symbolic stand on taxes, as Mr. Cantor seems to be doing, have no incentive to save the economy – they want voters to love them for opposing taxes and hate the Obama administration if the nation defaults on its debt. If the debt ceiling deal really does run off the rails and a global economic crisis ensues, Democrats might find real limits on the upside they’re eyeing today.
(Image: A plaque in Exeter, New Hampshire, commemorates the naming of the Republican Party there in 1853 by abolitionist Amos Tuck. It’s the political metaphor of the day, so far. Thanks to @politics07040 for the pic.)