From POLITICAL HOTSHEET at CBS NEWS:
Vice President Joe Biden’s deficit reduction talks imploded today after the only two Republicans involved in the negotiations announced they are halting their participation because of their objections to Democratic demands for “tax increases.”
Democrats meanwhile, suggested Republicans are “playing with fire” by holding up a vote on raising the debt ceiling.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor announced this morning that he would skip today’s scheduled meeting because “Democrats continue to insist that any deal must include tax increases.”
Subsequently, Republican Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona announced he was pulling out of the negotiations.
Kyl and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell released a statement saying, “The White House and Democrats are insisting on job-killing tax hikes and new spending. That proposal won’t address our fiscal crisis, our jobs crisis, or protect and reform entitlements.”
Democrats, meanwhile, learned about their Republican colleagues’ revolt after walking out of a White House meeting regarding the deficit.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi told reporters, “Yes, we do want to remove tax subsidies for big oil. We want to remove tax breaks for companies that send jobs overseas. I don’t know if that’s a reason to walk away from the table.”
The Obama administration and several economists have urged Congress to raise the debt limit by Aug. 2 to avoid economic catastrophe.
Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, one of the Democrats involved in Biden’s talks, said, “people are playing with fire and really putting the very fragile economy at greater threat” by threatening to vote against raising the debt limit.
Republicans have insisted that raising the debt ceiling without also making significant spending cuts would be fiscally irresponsible. Pelosi, however, said today that there’s no reason why a vote to raise the debt limit must be tied to deficit reduction.
Van Hollen suggested Republicans were more concerned with keeping taxes low for corporations than they were with deficit reduction.
“The reality is until our Republican colleagues are more concerned about the need to reduce the deficit than they are worried about what [conservative anti-tax advocate] Grover Norquist will say, we will have a very difficult time,” he said.
The Republicans’ decision to stall the negotiations puts more pressure on Mr. Obama to take responsibility — and possibly the blame — for the hard decisions Washington must make to bring down the deficit. The move also takes some of the pressure off of Cantor and Kyl, leaving House Speaker John Boehner to cut a deal with the president.
Speaking to reporters this afternoon, Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid lamented that with Kyl and Cantor gone, the negotiations are “in the hands of the speaker, and the president and sadly, probably me.”
Ernie Widdle Ewic Cantaw is stabbing Elmo Boohoo Bronzo the Clown Boehner right in the back, and, once again, Bronzo weeps. Don’t bother tickling him; it won’t help.