Pointing to deep divisions between Democrats and Republicans that have continued to stymie efforts at a big deal, Cantor argued, "If we know that there's that divide, we've already seen it play out for eight or nine months, let's try to work incrementally together in a bipartisan way, the way most people do that have differences, come together where you can, set aside the differences."
Cantor and Boehner have at best a complicated relationship, and he has never been shy about breaking with the GOP leader behind the scenes. But Cantor has generally been very careful to avoid openly defying Boehner or staking out such a different position in public.
Those close to Boehner discount any significant divisions between the two leaders. According to several sources, Boehner has come to terms with the fact that, short of a substantial overture from Obama, a grand bargain will remain out of reach for the remainder of the 112th Congress. And while he is unwilling to publicly abandon the idea of a big deal, he has no plans to pursue a grand bargain at this point.
"Look, the reality is that in an election year, the president is extremely unlikely to do anything 'big.' And Boehner knows that," a source close to the Ohio Republican said.
Nevertheless, raw feelings remain among some Republicans.
"It's a nice legacy piece for the Speaker ... [but] it's no longer policy season. It's message season," one lawmaker said.