With the Speaker of the House relegated to a backbencher role in the ongoing debt talks, Democrats are forced to deal with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.). And while John Boehner seemed relatively willing to work constructively towards a good-faith resolution, Democrats are discovering that his replacement is less willing, less knowledgeable, less cooperative, and frankly less intelligent.
Greg Sargent flagged Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) remarks on the floor this morning.
“…House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has shown he shouldn’t be at the table, and Republicans agree he shouldn’t be at the table. One Republican told Politico last night, ‘He lost a lot of credibility when he walked away from the table. It was childish.’
“We had negotiations going here in a room a short jog from here, and he walked out on the meeting. … It was childish. Another Republican said Cantor is putting himself first. He said: ‘He is all about Eric.’
“The time for personal gain and political posturing are over. It’s time to put our economy and our country first. The risks we face are simply too great. We don’t need to take my word for it. More than 300 respected business leaders wrote to Congress night before last to make it clear how serious this crisis really is.”
Sen. Chuck Schumer, the #3 Democrat in the chamber, also pushed back against Cantor.
“He is basically standing in the way,” Schumer said. “It can’t just be Eric Cantor deciding everything. If Eric Cantor decides everything, I fear we’ll be in default.”
Cantor argues that he’s simply representing the reality of the House — that his overwhelmingly conservative caucus won’t vote in sufficient numbers to pass anything resembling a deal Democrats would take. Schumer said that’s nonsense. “He’s not just representing it, he’s making it,” Schumer said.
Asked after the briefing whether a deal would be easier to reach if Cantor stepped aside, Schumer said simply “yes.”
As a practical matter, that’s not going to happen. But the point is Cantor has become someone Democrats don’t feel like they can trust to negotiate reasonably and in good faith. And in this process, Democrats control the White House, the Senate, and a chunk of House votes any deal will need to pass.
I find it hard to imagine Cantor responding to this by bringing a fresh attitude to this afternoon’s talks, but at least he should now realize the pressure is on his shoulders, now that’s he replaced Boehner as the party leader.