Sunday, March 3, 2013

And the blame goes to...

If there is an award for the single person most responsible for the sequestration, the one individual who did more to bring it about than any other, then that award will go to this person:

Representative Eric Cantor, R-VA.

Here's why, excerpted from an extended profile in The New Yorker (I added some emphases):

Cantor told me that it was a “fair assessment” that he talked Boehner out of accepting Obama’s deal. He said he told Boehner that it would be better, instead, to take the issues of taxes and spending to the voters and “have it out” with the Democrats in the election. Why give Obama an enormous political victory, and potentially help him win reĆ«lection, when they might be able to negotiate a more favorable deal with a new Republican President? Boehner told Obama there was no deal. Instead of a Grand Bargain, Cantor and the House Republicans made a grand bet.

What’s more, by scuttling the 2011 Grand Bargain negotiations, Cantor, more than any other politician, helped create the series of fiscal crises that have gripped Washington since Election Day. The failure of the Grand Bargain led to a byzantine deal: if the two parties could not agree on a new deficit plan, then a combination of tax increases and spending cuts—cuts known, in budget jargon, as a “sequester”—would automatically kick in on New Year’s Day. (The sequester was postponed until March 1st.)

[ Quoting Tom Cole, Oklahoma GOP Representative: ]
He [Cole] seemed far more frustrated with the extremists in his own party. “This is a very different Republican Party than the one I got elected into,” he said. “It’s much more domestically focused, much more fiscally responsible, much less concerned about America’s position in the world or about defending the country. It almost takes for granted the security that we have now. It’s not a group shaped by 9/11. Their 9/11 is the fiscal crisis, the long-term deficit.”
 [ During the fiscal cliff negotiations final hours ]
A few hours after his daily call, Cantor walked into the meeting room with Boehner—another public show of alliance. Cantor then announced that he couldn’t vote for the Biden-McConnell compromise. If Obama was getting new revenues, Republicans had to get spending cuts. “I do not support the bill,” he told reporters as he walked out of the meeting. Once again, Cantor had abandoned Boehner at a crucial moment of the negotiations. The Senate bill seemed doomed, and the economy was headed for the cliff.

Cantor seems newly pained by his reputation as an ideological roadblock. In Virginia, his favorable rating is twenty-seven per cent, a fact that makes a statewide run for office in the near future a dim prospect. [ Instead, the Republicans have Ken Cuccinelli !]

The looming sequester, which would slash spending across the government, was created by both parties, after the failure of the Grand Bargain, in 2011, as a purposely odious policy, in order to force the two sides to reach a more rational plan to reduce long-term deficits. Now House Republicans wanted the sequester to go into effect—and were blaming Obama for creating it. I asked Cantor about the disconnect between his speech, which highlighted real Americans who would theoretically be helped by future G.O.P. policies, and the real-world and immediate impact of the sequester. “What’s our choice, right?” he said. “There seemed to be no interest whatsoever on the part of the White House or the Senate to act. It’s up to the President to lead.”

In Richmond, before my last conversation with Cantor, Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana, who may run for President in 2016, spoke at an annual political breakfast hosted by Cantor. Jindal’s target was Obama, but his remarks were an implicit rebuke to House Republicans for becoming mired in a series of unnecessary fiscal crises that are of their own making, and which have kept them from dealing with other issues. “These are, in reality, sideshows in Washington that we have allowed to take center stage in our country,” Jindal said. “As conservatives, we are falling into the sideshow trap.”
So there you have it.  Even though there's a lot of blame to spread around, and more to come, Cantor takes credit for talking Boehner out of a potential revenues + cuts deal that might have actually approached reasonableness.  He takes credit for trying to wait for the election to get a Republican President with which a better deal (good for them, bad for the country) could be brokered, though rubber-stamped is more like it.  He turned down the Biden-McConnell deal that ended the fiscal cliff mess.  He leads the Tea Party Republican contingent in the House.

Eric Cantor is bad for America.

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