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Eric Cantor Trying to Negotiate Year-end Trigger Bargain

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House Majority Leader Eric Cantor tries to renege on debt ceiling deal (John Gress/Reuters)

By Joan McCarter

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, ignoring a veto threat from the White House, is trying to build support for a renegotiation of the automatic spending cuts triggered by the failure of the Super Congress to come up with a plan.
What it amounts to is a major year-end pitch: Democrats and President Barack Obama would get their much sought-after payroll tax cut extension and jobless benefits, while Republicans would tweak the Pentagon cuts that defense hawks hate.

The White House has already sent out a warning against messing with these so-called trigger spending cuts born out of the deficit supercommittee's failure, so it's far from clear that Cantor's maneuvering could win enough support on Capitol Hill.

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Cantor has spoken to senators from both parties -- including a Thanksgiving morning phone call to the Stamford, Conn., home of Sen. Joe Lieberman -- as he gauges support for a potential package that would include up to $133 billion in spending cuts in exchange for delaying the first year of slashes to defense and nondefense programs slated to begin in 2013. That package could also include a reform and a year-long extension of jobless benefits, a payroll tax break and the Medicare reimbursement rate for physicians.

Of course, Lieberman isn't a representative of the Democrats, but apparently Cantor has also reached out to fellow Virginian Sen. Jim Webb, who is, but who is also likely to be pretty hawkish when it comes to defense cuts. But even the GOP isn't united behind thinking these cuts will cause the sky to fall.

Even some conservative Republicans, like Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.), say that the Pentagon can more than absorb cuts that would amount to a fraction of the defense budget. [...]

"Every military base I go to, and everybody that works in the military that I've talked to, says, 'We can save 10 [percent] to 15 percent anywhere,'" Coburn said.

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"Three months after doing this, we're not going to stick to our word?" Paul said Wednesday. "I think it sends a very bad signal."

This is really nothing more than an effort by Republicans to change the subject from taxes. They're sustaining some real damage from their insistence on protecting the rich from tax hikes, and are looking for any way to divert attention from that issue and to change the narrative. Democrats would be fools to participate in that, which of course means that Lieberman will be totally on board.

Cross-posted from Daily Kos


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