House Democratic leaders called for a sweeping debt limit deal and questioned whether Republicans were acting in good faith on Tuesday, specifically criticizing their counterparts’ claims that merely showing up was in itself a compromise.
Their comments, and GOP leaders’ criticisms of Democrats earlier the same day set the tone for what could be a contentious meeting at the White House on Tuesday afternoon, the third straight day of the principals’ face-to-face talks.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) strongly defended President Barack Obama’s handling of the talks, dismissing liberal complaints that he has been willing to give up too much to Republicans. Arguing that Obama has been “value-based” in his approach to the talks, Pelosi said she is “very proud of the president.”
Meanwhile, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer blasted Republicans for not making enough concessions in the ongoing White House-led debt talks and reiterated his threat not to deliver votes to pass a deal “if what the Republicans do is try to hold hostage the credit-worthiness of the United States of America so they can slash programs that are critically important to the American people.”
Speaking to reporters at his weekly briefing, the Maryland Democrat praised Obama for pressing on with bicameral talks even as those negotiations have so far yielded little progress — and have come close to encroaching on Democratic priorities, like staving off cuts to Social Security and Medicare. Hoyer echoed Obama’s comments that Democrats stand ready to make concessions to reach a deal—but they expect Republicans to give some, too.
Hoyer also took aim at House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who Monday said the GOP was compromising just by “the fact that we have been discussing voting for a debt ceiling increase.”
“For Mr. Cantor to say that it was a major concession by the Republicans to sit down at the table to discuss getting to an agreement is an extraordinary comment to be made in a democracy,” Hoyer said. “Clearly, the American people expect us to do just that. That is our job, to try to reach agreement, to make America stronger, healthier, better.”
Cantor’s comments also drew a response from House Democratic Caucus Vice Chairman Xavier Becerra (Calif.), who at a separate briefing Tuesday said “coming to sit at the table, that’s not really a negotiation.” Like Hoyer, Caucus Chairman John Larson (Conn.) praised Obama for leading negotiations but conceded that some Members are grappling with whether to vote in favor of a debt deal.
“Yes, it can be frustrating to several members of our Caucus when we see only one side of negotiations and only the president willing to put everything on the table, and it becomes even more frustrating when you see the Republican leadership leave the table, walk out, say this is not possible,” Larson said.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.