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Bob Woodward: Tea Party stymied 'grand bargain' on debt limit

Why did America come to the brink of default last year?

Why did America come to the brink of default last year? According to journalist Bob Woodward, both parties were to blame—but that a particularly large share of the blame goes to the Tea Party faction of the Republican Party.

On Thursday’s Hardball, Chris Matthews spoke to The Washington Post’s Woodward about his new book, The Price of Politics, which analyses the Obama administration’s efforts to resolve the 2011 debt ceiling crisis—particularly Obama’s attempts to forge a “grand bargain” with Republican House Speaker John Boehner.

Woodward found both Boehner and Obama at fault for making the process so arduous. Both negotiators were, he said, unable to “transcend their fixed partisan convictions and dogmas.”

Matthews asked Woodward about the unique challenges Boehner faced from his own party, particularly Eric Cantor and other Tea Partiers.

“There’s a war going on in the Republican Party, as you know, and Eric Cantor, the number two in the House Republican majority, is much more connected to the Tea Party," Woodward said. "But don't kid yourself. Boehner is a conservative Republican, a much more moderate one, and he was laying down the law with Obama, saying ‘no tax increases.’”

Every time Boehner came back with a deal he thought he could make with the president, Woodward said, he would get a call from his chief of staff saying Cantor was talking to the Tea Partiers, and they wouldn’t go for it.

Matthews asked if Grover Norquist and his famous tax pledge are to blame.

Woodward said no, but added that the obstructionism needs to end:

Don’t blame Grover Norquist, blame the people who signed up. Look, you’ve got to have compromise … They [Obama, Boehner, House leaders] all feel if they agree on something, and they go out and stand before microphones and the cameras, and say this is the deal, this is in the interest of the country in the long run, then people will swallow some of that dogma. But they never got to that point. So now we’re dancing on the edge of a razor blade.