WASHINGTON – House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) abruptly pulled out of debt limit negotiations Thursday, citing an impasse on taxes, with the deadline to raise the ceiling or begin defaulting just six weeks away.
"I believe that we have identified trillions in spending cuts," Cantor said in a statement, fretting that "the Democrats continue to insist that any deal must include tax increases. There is not support in the House for a tax increase, and I don’t believe now is the time to raise taxes in light of our current economic situation."
Cantor, the GOP's lead negotiator in the bipartisan talks held by Vice President Joe Biden, said he's optimistic about striking a deal but said "the tax issue must be resolved" in order to bring him back to the table. "Given this impasse, I will not be participating in today's meeting and I believe it is time for the President to speak clearly and resolve the tax issue," he said.
The move is a sign that the majority leader, who tends to speak for the staunch conservative wing of his caucus, wanted his fingerprints off a deal that may include revenue increases. Declaring that tax hikes remain important to Democrats, Cantor called for President Barack Obama and Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to step in and take things forward.
"We've reached the point where the dynamic needs to change,'' he told the Wall Street Journal, which first broke the news. "It is up to the president to come in and talk to the speaker. We've reached the end of this phase. Now is the time for these talks to go into abeyance."
A senior Democratic aide responded bluntly: "Eric Cantor just threw Boehner under the bus," the aide told Raw Story. "This move is an admission that there will be a need for revenues and Cantor doesn't want to be the one to make that deal."
The news also puts pressure on Obama and Democrats to come forth with their revenue-related ideas and sell them to the public, in order to persuade House Republicans whose votes can make or break the deal.
Economists fear that failure to raise the $14.3 debt ceiling by August 2 could trigger another financial meltdown and send the economy spiraling back into recession.
This article has been updated since publication to add new reporting.