Normally imperturbable President Barack Obama lost his cool during Wednesday's debt talks, storming out of a meeting after telling Republicans that the intractable negotiations were confirming what the American people think is the worst about Washington.
Obama's frustration reflects a sense among Democrats that Republicans are demanding too much without showing any willingness to compromise. A concensus has emerged that the leading culprit for this dogmatism is House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.)
There is one person who hasn't come up with a plan, hasn't compromised, hasn't reached out to the other side in an effort to move forward, and that is the majority leader in the House, Mr. Cantor, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said from the Senate floor on Wednesday. He is the only one who still says, 'My way or the highway.'
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Cantor has maintained an unwavering opposition to any deal that involves new sources of revenue, or tax hikes in GOP rhetoric. It manifested itself when he walked out of an early round of talks, and in his regular statements refusing to give any ground on taxes.
This steadfastness has to a certain extent usurped the debate from more senior elements of party leadership. Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, endorsed a deal, floated by Obama, that would have sought a much larger deficit reduction package including Republican goals like cutting Social Security and Democratic priorities like new tax revenue -- not surprisingly, Cantor was one of the loudest voices in a chorus opposing it. Obama has praised Boehner for being very sincere about trying to do something big, but has not had such kind words for Cantor.
Cantor also rejected a plan from the top Senate Republican, minority leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., that would have effectively ceded authority for raising the debt limit. McConnell appears to have calculated that the move would shift responsibility -- and blame -- to Obama, deflecting criticism that Republicans had not done enough. Shortly after McConnell released that plan, Cantor issued a press release maintaining that Currently, there is not a single debt limit proposal that can pass the House of Representatives. It did not directly mention McConnell's plan, but from the timing the intent was clear.