Cantor: ‘Not a Game’

by Robert Costa

Over on the home page, the House Majority Leader gives National Review Online an exclusive update on the debt-limit negotiations:

A couple of hours before Thursday’s debt-limit negotiations, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor huddles with aides and reviews budget numbers. Across the rotunda, one of his fellow White House conferees, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, chastises Cantor for allegedly acting “childish” during Wednesday’s meeting.

Cantor, sitting across from me in his Capitol office, a bowl of untouched M&Ms at his side, shrugs at the slight and the many others that have been slung his way. He tells me that those who resort to name-calling, or cast him as intransigent, have knowingly misrepresented his actions.

“This is not a game,” Cantor says. “We have serious problems. We have put out very thoughtful proposals to try to address them. But sometimes, around here, that doesn’t always make it through.”

For months, Cantor has been a force in high-stakes talks, from the debt-reduction discussions led by Vice President Biden to the current Cabinet Room confabs hosted by President Obama. On Wednesday night, the ongoing efforts, he says, unfortunately veered into the personal when the president criticized the Virginia lawmaker for opposing tax increases.

The president “got very agitated,” Cantor told reporters Wednesday night at the Capitol. Cantor added that Obama then told him not to “call my bluff,” and said that he would take his argument to the “American people.”

Reflecting on the episode Thursday afternoon, Cantor chuckles over how dramatically the president behaved. He chalks up the heated conversation to politics more than anything. “They’re just not serious,” he says. “Even those things identified in the Biden talks have been cast aside, only touchable if we raise taxes.”

“I was willing to compromise,” Cantor contends. “I said, Mr. President, we want to do it right. I said, I agree with you, we ought not to go beyond August 2. But because the votes are not there in the House, I asked whether he was willing to come off his statement that he will veto that. That’s what led to the blowup.”

More here.

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