Rep. Cantor's Comically Dishonest Case For The GOP Debt Plan

July 27, 2011 11:00 am ET — Matt Finkelstein

Rep. Eric Cantor

House Republicans are having some trouble selling Speaker John Boehner's (R-OH) latest debt-reduction proposal. The White House has indicated President Obama would veto Boehner's plan, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has declared it "dead on arrival" in the upper chamber, and even House conservatives and right-wing advocacy groups are rallying against it. GOP leaders are so desperate that they tried to pump up their caucus yesterday by showing a movie clip in which Ben Affleck announces his desire to "hurt some people" before donning a hockey mask and beating another character senseless.   

Last night, Fox News broadcast an interview with Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) that was recorded before Republicans decided to delay the vote on Boehner's plan until Thursday. In the interview, Cantor made the case for why skeptical conservatives should embrace the plan (video below the fold):

CANTOR: Well, you know, I think a lot of the folks that have just come to join us realize that there are really three options right now. One is to push us past August 2nd, which many believe will bring on default. [...]

The second option is to go with Harry Reid's plan. Harry Reid's plan is basically giving the president a blank check, giving him what he wants, a blind increase of the debt ceiling to spend money the way he wants.

And the fact is, it's his spending and the promotion of his policies that have wrecked this economy. So what we say, the third option is, let's go about making sure that we're dollar for dollar, increase the debt limit but only if you got commensurate cuts to go along with that. And because the Democrats will not agree with enough cuts to give the president all that he wants, because they want to raise taxes with those cuts, we've agreed to a $1.2 trillion increase, or cuts, to afford a $900 billion dollar increase.

Even for Cantor, this is pathetically dishonest. Let's count the errors: 

(1) There are more than three options. For example, House Republicans could end this crisis immediately by passing a clean increase in the debt ceiling, as they did routinely when controlled Congress under the Bush administration.

(2) Reid's plan is not a "blank check." In fact, Boehner accidentally debunked this falsehood yesterday when he told Rush Limbaugh that raising the debt ceiling simply allows the country to pay its bills for spending that has already happened.

(3) Reid's plan does not let Obama "spend money the way he wants." That power still belongs to Congress, which Cantor presumably understands as the leader of the House majority.

(4) Obama's policies did not "wreck" the economy. The president inherited a recession and a massive deficit that was created by policies that Cantor supported

(5) Cantor demands "dollar for dollar" spending cuts to go along with the increase in the debt ceiling, but Reid's plan already has bigger cuts than Boehner's. Cantor complains that Democrats "want to raise taxes," but Reid's plan doesn't have any new revenues.

However, Cantor did make one honest argument for the Republican plan: "It forces the president back to the table kicking and screaming about taxes and spending in an election year, which he does not want to do." That's a clear admission that Republicans are more interested in playing politics than acting responsibly.