President Obama described his relationship with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor as “cordial” on Thursday, one day after a testy exchange between the two ended a negotiating session on the debt ceiling.
Even as Obama described the daily White House talks as “professional,” he signaled his frustration with the lack of progress to CBS affiliate KYW, one of three local television interviews he did Thursday trying to make his case to the nation.
“At a certain point, the American people run out of patience if they think that people are playing games and not serious in terms of solving problems,” he said.
“I’ve consistently said that I’m willing to compromise, I’m willing to put on the table things that are important to the Democrats, I’m willing to take on our sacred cows. But what we haven’t seen is any willingness on the part of some congressional leaders to budge an inch -- on positions that, by the way, the vast majority of the American people don’t agree with,” he added.
The parties met again Thursday for more than an hour, the fifth straight day of White House talks.
Representative of the deadlock and raised tempers, the parties couldn’t even agree today on precisely how Wednesday’s meeting broke up.
Cantor told reporters Wednesday night that Obama stormed out of the meeting after he called for a series of debt ceiling votes based on spending cuts that already have been identified.
“The president told me, ‘Eric, don’t call my bluff. I’m going to take this to the American people,’” Cantor said.
Democratic officials, however, denied reports that Obama had “walked out” of the meeting. “Left abruptly is perfectly fair,” one official said.
But that didn’t stop the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee from using the “bluff” remark in a fundraising solicitation Thursday.
“These were the strong words President Obama had for Eric Cantor, leader of the Congressional ‘Hell No’ Caucus,” Guy Cecil, the DSCC’s executive director, wrote in seeking donations for “an Emergency Media Campaign, designed to defend the defenders of Medicare and Social Security and end the political careers of as many Republicans as possible.”
Cantor, the ambitious Virginia congressman, emerged Thursday as the focus of Democrats’ PR offensive. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called his behavior “childish” during a speech on the Senate floor, and said he “has shown he shouldn’t even be at the table.”
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), at a morning news conference, added: “There’s really only one person who has not made any concessions ... and that is Majority Leader Cantor. He is basically standing in the way and it’s a shame.”
Speaker of the House John Boehner, responding to reports that he and his fellow Republican were at odds, said Thursday afternoon that the two are “in the foxhole” together.
“What we are trying to do here is solve a problem that has eluded Washington for decades. I’m glad Eric’s there and those who have other opinions can keep them to themselves,” he said.