So what’s going on between the two top GOP leaders on the budget?
Politico’s David Rogers got into an extraordinary exchange with Eric Cantor on the Hill yesterday, in which Rogers pointedly told Cantor that he had it on good authority that John Boehner is conducting budget talks with White House chief of staff Bill Daley without Cantor or Senate Dems. The suggestion from their exchange, which you can read right here, is that Cantor is apparently out of the loop on those discussions.
Rogers, who is deeply sourced on the Hill, told Cantor that he has been told that Boehner and Daley had talked about a bit more than an additional $30 billion as an acceptable compromise target for budget cuts — far less than the $60 billion sought by House conservatives. Cantor said he hadn’t heard that there was any agreement on that number.
If this is true, this is important, for two reasons: First, it would signal that the Obama administration is undertaking budget negotiations directly with Boehner, around Senate Dems. And second, it would underscore that the divisions between the two top GOP leaders about how far to go to compromise with Dems run deeper than we thought.
But color me very skeptical that Cantor is really being kept out of the loop on these discussions. It does appear that Boehner is indeed conducting talks with the White House — talks that Cantor is not directly involved in — but it seems highly unlikely that Cantor is not being kept apprised of what’s happening.
Cantor does seem to think that the cuts should go deeper than Boehner thinks they should. But it also seems very likely that Cantor is staking out that position with the intent of reassuring House conservatives — who will be in serious rebellion if the ultimate compromise with Dems doesn’t contain the cuts they want — that someone has their back as the talks unfold. My immediate sense is that there’s less to this “schism” than meets the eye.
A really important angle here is Daley’s role. Is he circumventing Senate Dems and taking a White House offer to Boehner that’s higher than what Senate Dems are comfortable with?