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Cantor Re-Emerges as Key Negotiator

Tom Williams/Roll Call

Acknowledging that Republicans were a little wary of the talks because “there wasn’t a lot of information that was forthcoming,” Cantor downplayed GOP concerns with the talks and argued Boehner backed out when it became clear Obama was looking for things he could not support.

“I can tell you when you look at what the deal was, there was a request for over a trillion dollars in increased baseline, new revenues. There was a request reported that we were going to have to vote on decoupling the Bush tax cuts, the very issue that both sides agreed not to do in December. So how can [Boehner] sit here and continue those kind of discussions based on tax hikes? I mean, that’s all,” Cantor said.

At his own press conference Monday, Boehner sounded less like the deal-maker and more the GOP hard-liner. “There was never any agreement to allow tax rates to go up in any discussion I’ve had with the White House,” the Ohio Republican said, adding that Obama and Congressional Democrats must make more concessions on cutting entitlements.

Although both sides vehemently deny there are rifts between the two leaders, tensions have been evident for months. Cantor is an ambitious politician, and those around Boehner have viewed him with some suspicion. Likewise, Cantor supporters have worried that Boehner would try to force ownership of the final debt limit deal on the Virginian to avoid the wrath of the tea party movement, which opposes any increase in the debt limit.

The two have had similar episodes in the past — most recently during the continuing resolution debate, when Cantor and others in Boehner’s leadership team questioned his handling of the talks and worried he was giving up too much to the Obama administration.

Whispers of palace intrigue aside, at least for now, the two are publicly singing from the same hymnal, and questions about their relationship are clearly tiring Republicans.

At one point Monday, Cantor was asked whether he could foresee a scenario in which Boehner came forward with a deal he could not support.

“No, I think we are on the same page. I know you all love to write the soap opera here. And it is just that, it is something that I think belittles the real question here. And that is the difference between the sides, and that is between the fact that Barack Obama wants to raise taxes and Republicans don’t,” an exasperated Cantor said.

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