The Obama-Cantor spat: Is a debt deal still possible?

The House Majority Leader says the president stormed out of Wednesday's debt-ceiling meeting, and there's a rising concern that the talks can't be saved

Obama walked out of Wednesday's meeting after House Majority Leader Eric Cantor reportedly interrupted him.
(Image credit: Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)

President Barack Obama walked out of a stormy debt-limit meeting Wednesday evening, after telling congressional leaders that "enough is enough," according to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. The House's second-ranking Republican said the clash came after he suggested the GOP might accept a short-term hike in the debt ceiling, accompanied by spending cuts, to avoid default on Aug. 2, with another vote next year. President Obama, who has repeatedly said he'll only accept a long-term debt solution, and has tried to engineer a "grand bargain" of massive spending cuts and smaller revenue increases with Republicans, is reportedly fed up. Saying that no past president would have patiently allowed such negotiations, Obama reportedly told congressional leaders, "I've reached my limit. This may bring my presidency down, but I will not yield on this." Are negotiations doomed?

Yes. We'll get a Band-aid, not a real fix: The White House insists Obama stormed out because Cantor "badgered" him, says Jennifer Rubin at The Washington Post. "Heavens, can't have that." Republicans are justifiably frustrated after pitching concrete plans, and promising that they'll OK a deal tomorrow if it cuts spending as much as it raises the debt ceiling. But Obama refuses to offer a counter-proposal that could pass either house of Congress, so we'll be left with some lousy fall-back option that solves nothing.

"A position, a plan, and a walk"

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Cantor's whining only made matters worse: Clearly, the GOP is "run entirely by petulant children," says Steve Benen at Washington Monthly. Eric Cantor is "undermining the process itself by pouting for the cameras" and whining that Obama hurt his feelings. But, theatrics aside, "the substantive gaps between the parties appear to be turning into chasms," so the talks are bound to go nowhere before they're scheduled to end on Friday.

"Going backwards with 19 days to go"

They will strike a deal. They must: This testy exchange changed nothing, says James Pethokoukis at Reuters. At this point, both sides know Republicans won't accept tax hikes, and Democrats won't agree to the GOP's "dollar for dollar" deal if it means matching the debt-ceiling hike entirely with spending cuts. So ultimately, Republicans will probably accept something like $1.5 trillion in cuts, instead of the $2 trillion-plus they want. It won't be perfect, but compared to the possibility of Obama turning a debt crisis into a weapon against the GOP in his re-election campaign, even "spending-hawk House Republicans" may agree to this deal.

"Maybe Cantor should have stormed out instead"

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