Cantor Holds Firm on Taxes

by Andrew Stiles

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.) today reiterated his party’s opposition to tax increases in a deal to raise the debt ceiling, arguing it would constitute a violation of the “Pledge to America” that Republicans successfully ran on to win control of the House in 2010.

“Our members did not come here to raise taxes,” Cantor said. “We’re not asking the president to violate his pledges to the American people, and we wish he wouldn’t ask us to do so.”

Cantor said that while he appreciates President Obama’s willingness to address entitlement spending in the ongoing negotiations, the Democrats’ demand for roughly $1 trillion in tax increases was simply unacceptable and would never get the votes to pass the House.

In a Monday morning press conference, Obama continued to press for “the largest deal possible,” which would include both substantial tax increases and reforms to entitlement programs, in addition to trillions in spending cuts, an arrangement that House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) has already publicly rejected.

Cantor downplayed rumors of a rift between Boehner and himself over the makeup of a potential deal. “The speaker and I are on the same page,” he said. “We don’t believe you should be raising taxes on the American people, especially in this economy.”

He called such speculation a distraction, saying the real issue is the massive divide between the two parties. “They’re for raising taxes, we’re not,” he said. “That is just an irreconcilable difference, and if the president wants the debt ceiling [raised], we’re not going to go along with that if they want to raise taxes.”

Cantor and Boehner are among the congressional leaders meeting at the White House at 2 p.m. today to continue ongoing negotiations. Cantor said the discussion will center on the spending cuts agreed to in the talks led by Vice President Joe Biden, which Cantor walked away from when Democrats insisted on raising taxes.

Cantor dismissed the president’s repeated use of the term “shared sacrifice” as a euphemism for higher taxes, pointing out that it was Republicans who initiated the debate over deficit reduction and were first to produce a serious proposal to solve the problem (the Paul Ryan budget). Suggestions that the Republicans are not serious about reducing the deficit were “laughable,” he said. In response to the Obama’s remarks that he would not accept a deal “in which I am allowed to keep hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional income that I don’t need,” the majority leader joked that Obama “can write a check anytime he wants.”