Despite all the noise today, at the end of the day, sooner or later, both Speaker John Boehner and Eric Cantor are going to wind up voting for a debt limit increase. That’s why I’d be very cautious about interpreting House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s walk-out on debt limit talks as a sign of a split between Cantor and Speaker John Boehner, as Ezra Klein did earlier today.
Remember, whatever deal is made has to win 218 votes in the House. Quite a few Republicans will probably refuse to vote for a debt limit increase regardless of what comes with it. A deal that Cantor opposes wouldn’t stand a chance in the House; even a deal that he votes for but will not speak for is, I’d guess, unlikely to pass. Democrats are likely to insist that a majority of House Republicans support the deal, and that’s not going to happen without unified, solid support from the GOP leadership.
And there has to be a deal. Even if it goes down to the last minute, even if it goes past the last minute and brings us to the brink of economic disaster, eventually the debt limit will be raised. nWhether that’s now, late July, mid-August, or whenever, the numbers in the House will be the same. Those numbers say: the leadership of both parties, and certainly the leadership of the majority party, is going to support it. After all, whoever eventually is in the room when the deal is made, it then has to be sold to House Republicans. For that, Cantor and Boehner are going to have to be on the same page.
So why the walk-out? It’s possible that he’s just making a little noise before surrendering to the inevitable; it’s possible that his walk-out is part of a coordinated strategy by the Republicans to try to put as much of the blame for tax hikes (uh, sorry, increased revenues without tax hikes, as Greg pointed out earlier) on the Democrats. It’s even possible that Cantor believes that conservatives will think that cutting the deal is a lot worse than supporting it, although if he does I think he’s dead wrong about that.
Either way, both Cantor and Boehner have to know that a vote in favor of raising the debt ceiling is in their future, and that a lot of conservatives are going to be unhappy with that no matter what else is attached.