President Obama abruptly left debt negotiations with congressional leaders Wednesday, according to White House officials.
According to The Los Angeles Times, the meeting began to go awry when House Majority Leader Eric Cantor told the president that, “Congress should instead consider a series of debt ceiling votes based on spending cuts that already have been identified. Talks could then continue to identify additional cuts for subsequent votes.”
“I suggested we were so far apart I didn’t see in the time before us how we get to where he wants us to be,” Cantor told reporters after the meeting.
Obama, in his typical affable and diplomatic manner, warned Cantor not to set such an ultimatum and threatened to veto any legislation that would extend the debt ceiling only for a short period.
“The president told me, ‘Eric, don’t call my bluff. I’m going to take this to the American people,’” Cantor said.
Aides, who spoke on condition of anonymity, described it as the most heated meeting they’ve experienced in the months of discussions, with the president at one point accusing both sides of posturing.
“This process is confirming what the American people think is the worst about Washington: that everyone is more interested in posturing, political position and protecting their base than solving real problems,” Obama said.
Of course, this is coming from the man who warned Tuesday that failure to raise the debt ceiling could mean that Social Security checks, veterans benefits and other government obligations would not be paid as scheduled in August. If anyone knows anything about posturing, surely it is Obama.
The president “was most insistent that he wanted the debt limit extended into 2013, because he believes a repeat of what we’re going through now, when things will be politically more tense, would be very destabilizing,” another aide said.
The meeting was effectively ended after a top Republican accused the White House of playing politcal games in order to entice “Yes” votes on extending the debt ceiling.
In an effort to circle the wagons, Democratic officials deny reports that Obama had “walked out” of the meeting. “Left abruptly is perfectly fair,” one official said. “But the meeting was over — in no sense did he walk out on it.”
We can only assume that he asked to be excused, that is, after he had finished eating his peas.