GOP Leaders: ‘Nothing Off the Table Except Raising Taxes’

by Andrew Stiles

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.), who represented House Republicans at this morning’s deficit reduction summit with Vice President Joe Biden, continued to push back against reports that the GOP has “given up” on Medicare reform. Inevitabley, the media seems to have drawn this conclusion based on the recent remarks from House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) and Ways and Means Committee chairman Dave Camp (R., Mich.) suggesting that Medicare reform is unlikely to be resolved before 2012 (See: here and here).

“I never said we’re taking Medicare off the table,” Cantor said. “The reality is, this president has excoriated our budget plan and the Medicare proposal in the plan. I certainty would like to see what their proposals are.”

Earlier today, House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) offered a similar message. “Absolutely not,” Boehner said when asked if Republican were abandoning their Medicare proposal. “Let me make this clear: When it comes to increasing the debt limit and the need to have reductions in spending, nothing is off the table except raising taxes.”

“My interpretation of what Mr. Camp [said] was a recognition of the political realities that we face,” he continued. “While Republicans control the House, Democrats control the Senate and control the White House. We’ve put our plan on the table, it’s out there. It’s time for the Democrats to put their plan on the table.”

The speaker reaffirmed his position that Republicans would not vote to increase the federal debt limit without significant budget reforms and “real spending cuts.” Asked to define “real spending cuts,” Boehner said, “Instead of talking about billions, or tens of billions, I think it is time to start talking about trillions.”

Cantor said the primary message he brought to the summit today was that higher taxes are unacceptable. “I went in and represented the position that says look, if we’re going to achieve results, any measure will have to pass the House,” he said. “The house has taken a firm position against anything having to do with increasing taxes. We are not interested in having any discussion about tax increases.”

He added that the meeting was a “good first step” and “in contrast to the rhetoric we’ve heard before.”

“The spirit of the meeting was that they understood where we were coming from and understood that you cannot sustain a scenario in which the federal government borrow 40 cents for every dollar it spends,” he said. “We were looking to find commonalities without attacking anyone’s plan.”

A senior House GOP aide reiterated that the Ryan budget was the Republican starting point for the deficit talks, adding: “The Ryan budget isn’t just Medicare [reform], there’s a lot of options there.”

According to the aide, Democrats at the summit did not offer a specific proposal as Republicans had requested earlier this week. The group — consisting of Biden and other White House officials, Cantor and Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R., Ariz.) on the Republican side and Senate Appropriations Committee chairman Dan Inouye (D., Hawaii), Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus (D., Mont.), Assistant House Minority Leader Jim Clyburn (D., S.C.) and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D., Md.), ranking member on the House Budget Committee repenting congressiona Democrats — is expected to meet again next Tuesday.