- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 23, 2011

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

In a surprise move Thursday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor announced to reporters he was pulling out of bipartisan negotiations over raising the debt ceiling. Without consulting the rest of the GOP leadership team, the House Republicans’ representative in the group chaired by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. vented his frustration.

“The Democrats continue to insist that any deal must include tax increases,” said Mr. Cantor in a statement. “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.”

House Speaker John A. Boehner backed up his rogue deputy, saying the talks would only restart if the Democrats take “tax hikes off the table” and President Obama engages himself in the process. The Biden group set a target date of July 1 for the final deal to allow for time to write the legislation and rally caucus support for the vote.

The Senate GOP’s delegate to the talks, Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl, shares the resistance to tax hikes, but his office declined to comment on whether he would be the sole Republican to participate in the negotiations.

Thursday’s Biden group meeting was supposed to explore the issue of how to bind a future Congress to lower spending levels. Both sides appear to agree that spending caps of some sort would be put in place for the outlying years.

They disagree about what would happen if the spending caps are broken. Republicans want hard spending caps that trigger automatic cuts in outlays. Mr. Obama wants a “two-sided trigger” which would cut spending and set off tax hikes when spending gets out-of-control.

The other fight has been over the Democrats’ insistence on closing relatively small tax “loopholes.” This is a transparent attempt to score points with their class-warfare obsessed political base. Rep. Chris Van Hollen, Maryland Democrat, explained that his side continues to push to raise taxes by eliminating deductions for upper-income Americans and various subsidies for business.

These gimmicks might generate revenue in the tens of billions while the country faces a debt load of $14.3 trillion. Mr. Cantor blasted the loophole fixation on Tuesday. “You look at the value of the so-called revenue savings or revenue enhancement there versus what we’re talking about - trillions - you have to wonder, is this about policy and substance or is this about politics?” said Mr. Cantor.

Mr. Cantor’s abrupt walkout may be a move to force his leader, Mr. Boehner, to make the final, difficult negotiations directly with the president. As tough as the talks may be, the GOP can’t let the Democrats wear them down and end with a deal that raises taxes, doesn’t make real spending cuts, and allows entitlements to continue bankrupting the country.

The stakes are high, and the Republicans need to stand united, have strong backbones, and stay at the table.

Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.

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