A failure to communicate

When House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) abandoned bipartisan debt-reduction talks yesterday, it seemed rather obvious, almost immediately, that he was throwing House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) “under the bus.” After all, Cantor quit the moment things got tough, leaving Boehner to cut an unpopular deal and fight for its passage.

There’s been talk for months about behind-the-scenes tensions and divisions between Cantor and Boehner, and this only reinforced those rumors.

Not so, GOP officials said yesterday. The official line was that Cantor’s decision to quit was part of a long-standing plan, weeks in the making. Republicans, they said, were all on the same page.

There’s ample evidence to the contrary.

For his part, Cantor didn’t inform Boehner of his decision to leave the talks until Thursday, shortly before the news broke, said a GOP official familiar with the situation.

What’s more, the New York Times reports that the Speaker had a private chat with President Obama on Wednesday night, apparently to discuss the negotiations, and Boehner had no idea that Cantor would abandon the talks the following morning.

I think it’s safe to say the top two House Republicans aren’t exactly coordinating their efforts. It’s also fair to say both would like to blame the other for a deal that no one is going to like.

And it’s also fair to say that if Republicans fare poorly in 2012, Cantor will be challenging Boehner for the caucus leadership post, and is taking the necessary steps now to ensure he’ll have more support than the Speaker among the GOP’s rank and file.