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Off-Topic on Eve of White House Debt Talks

Tom Williams/Roll Call
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said Wednesday that he was open to closing tax loopholes but that the revenue should go toward cutting other taxes, not shrinking the deficit.

Cantor said the GOP is already compromising by being willing to increase the debt limit and that the votes aren’t there for a net tax increase. “There are no votes in the House for tax increases,” he said. “Whether the president looks at that as an ultimatum or not, it is what it is.”

The president, for his part, engaged in a bit of economic debate with Speaker John Boehner — at the first presidential Twitter town hall.

Staying away from the debt ceiling topic, the Ohio Republican tweeted, “After embarking on a record spending binge that left us deeper in debt, where are the jobs?”

Obama quipped that Boehner needed to “work on his typing skills” when responding to the Speaker’s tweet, but he then agreed that job creation has not picked up as quickly as it needs to.

Democrats have floated some tax cuts, too — including an extension and expansion of this year’s payroll tax cut and permanent relief for the alternative minimum tax — that could be used to offset tax increases elsewhere.

But Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl dismissed those as items Democrats have pushed anyway, rather than GOP priorities.

The Arizona Republican also said on the Senate floor that Republicans agreed to $150 billion to $200 billion in higher revenue as part of the debt ceiling talks — but from fees and the like, not from taxes.

“It’s simply false to suggest that we haven’t been willing to talk about revenues and that all of the concessions have been on the Democratic side,” Kyl said.

One House Republican aide predicted that none of the tax breaks targeted by Democrats — for the owners of boats, racehorses and corporate jets — would be included in a final deal. The aide noted that the provisions not only would have a hard time in the House but also would likely face “substantial opposition” in the Senate, even among some Democrats.

McConnell said he continues to hope a big package can be cobbled together instead of a short-term fix.

“I hope that there will be some kind of breakthrough tomorrow. Maybe he could begin by telling us what he has in mind,” McConnell said, complaining that the president has yet to offer a proposal.

Cantor said the blueprint discussed in the debt talks led by Vice President Joseph Biden could still be revived if Democrats give up on a net tax increase.

“That deal is still in the works. I believe it is still there and that we can deliver on it,” Cantor said.

But Democrats continue to insist that revenues be on the table. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer said Wednesday, “Everything needs to be on the table, and when I say everything, I mean everything.”

The Maryland Democrat predicted that any deal will need Democratic votes to pass the House, reminding reporters that 81 Democratic Members joined Republicans to pass the continuing resolution in March. But Hoyer said Democratic support would not come without a price.

“I’m not going to help on some draconian, do-it-my-way-or-the-highway vote, but we Democrats are prepared to cooperate in order to assure the credit-worthiness of the United States of America is not put at risk,” he said.

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