Obama chastises Cantor, repeats warning over short-term proposals

President Obama walked out of a meeting with congressional leaders Wednesday evening after telling them that they are "confirming" what Americans hate about Washington.

A Democratic source familiar with the negotiations said the reports of a dramatic or abrupt walk-out by Obama were overblown, but the source acknowledged the president "said what he was going to say, he got up and walked out."

ADVERTISEMENT
"The climax of the meeting was the president basically saying 'what's happening in this room confirms what everybody across the country thinks about Washington, D.C.,' " the Democratic official said. "Which is that people are more interested in protecting their base and political positioning than solving problems."

Reports from the meeting vary, with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) saying that Obama abruptly left the meeting. Democrats, however, said that Obama was wrapping up the meeting when Cantor interrupted with the notion of a short-term deal, causing the president to stand up and warn Cantor "don't call my bluff" before walking out.

Cantor told reporters Obama became “agitated” when the House majority leader said Republicans were now open to holding two votes to increase the debt ceiling between now and the 2012 elections, which the president has rejected. 

The Democratic source confirmed that Obama did repeat his warning about short-term deals.

“We are very far apart right now,” Cantor said he told the president. “I don’t know if we can get there.”

Despite the tension, Obama and the Republicans did seem to find common ground on about $1.7 trillion in cuts over 10 years, cuts that were identified during talks led by Vice President Biden.

"And we're willing to further than that," the official said. "It's a pretty clear indication of how far the president has come in terms of his willingness to come off his maximalist position."

The leaders are scheduled to return to the White House again on Thursday afternoon at 4:15 p.m. to discuss mandatory spending, revenues and triggers, according to the White House.


—This story was updated at 9:20 p.m.