Partisan tit for tat over raising the nation’s debt limit continued Tuesday, as the No. 2 House Democrat rebuked House Majority Leader Eric Cantor for saying Republicans were making a concession simply by agreeing to join the negotiations.
“For Mr. Cantor to say that this has been a major concession by Republicans to sit down at the table to discuss getting to an agreement is an extraordinary comment to be made in a democracy,” House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, said during his weekly briefing with reporters.
“Clearly, the American public expects us to do just that — that is our job, to try to reach agreement.”
Mr. Cantor, Virginia Republican, told reporters a day earlier that agreeing to raise the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt limit was a big sacrifice for his party’s members.
“A vote to increase the debt limit in this country is an existential question for a fiscal conservative, because what that does is facilitate more spending,” Mr. Cantor said. “These votes aren’t easy.”
Mr. Hoyer pointed out that Mr. Cantor and House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, voted several times to increase the debt limit during the administration of President George W. Bush.
“I have not talked to a Republican leader who does not think that it’s essential that we increase the debt limit,” the Democratic whip said.
Party leaders in Congress, as well as the Obama administration and most economists, argue that failing to raise the debt ceiling by early August would result in the federal government defaulting on its loans, a scenario many say could lead to global economic havoc.
Mr. Hoyer also called Republican claims that President Obama is to blame for the nation’s ballooning debt “dishonest and absurd” and “factually untrue.”
“We went from $5 trillion in debt to $10 trillion in debt in the Bush administration,” he said.
Mr. Hoyer and Mr. Cantor, along with other party leaders from both houses of Congress, have been meeting with Mr. Obama in recent days to try to hammer out a deal to increase the debt limit.
Mr. Hoyer said Mr. Cantor and Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican, have done most of the talking on behalf of GOP lawmakers. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, he said, “has said hardly anything.”
The Maryland Democrat called the talks “candid” and said that “all of us are engaged in trying to reach a common- sense, responsible, necessary” deal.
The talks continue at the White House on Tuesday afternoon.