Boehner expects to hear from Obama following Cantor's exit from debt talks

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Thursday he expects to hear from President Obama after Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) withdrew from deficit-reduction talks because Democrats were insisting on tax increases.

Boehner’s comment could signal that the talks over lifting the federal debt ceiling could shift to a direct negotiation between the Speaker and Obama as an Aug. 2 deadline imposed by the Treasury Department draws closer.

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In a news conference Thursday morning, Boehner said he understood Cantor’s frustration but pointedly declined to say whether he supported his decision to ditch the negotiations being led by Vice President Joe Biden. The Speaker also said the talks could continue if Democrats took tax hikes off the table.

“I understand the frustrations,” Boehner said. “I understand why [Cantor] did what he did. But I think those talks could continue if they’re willing to take the tax hikes off the table.”

Boehner reiterated his call for the president to become more engaged on the debt talks, a demand Cantor also made as he announced his departure from the Biden group. “If we’re going to meet that timeline, the president is going to have to engage,” Boehner said.

Asked if Cantor’s decision meant that Boehner would begin to have private conversations with the president, the Speaker replied: “I would expect to hear from him.”

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Democrats are portraying Cantor's exit as his way of forcing Boehner to take the fall if Republicans acquiesce to tax changes as part of the debt deal.

Democrats have pushed to remove tax breaks for the oil-and-gas industry as part of a deficit-reduction deal, among other changes to the tax code. Cantor has said those items should be dealt with in a separate overhaul of the tax code, but Boehner did not completely close the door to including them in a debt deal.

Asked if he was opposed to eliminating subsidies and other tax expenditures, as well as increases in rates, Boehner replied: “We’ve been opposed to increasing tax rates.”

As for tax rate increases, he said earlier: “A tax hike cannot pass the U.S. House of Representatives. It’s not just a bad idea — it doesn’t have the votes, and it can't happen.”