(Updates with details on White House negotiating session in fourth paragraph.)
July 14 (Bloomberg) -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, said today that Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has been “childish” during deficit-reduction negotiations and has shown he shouldn’t “be at the table.”
“The time for personal gain and political posturing are over,” Reid of Nevada said on the Senate floor today. “It’s time to put our economy and our country first.”
Reid said Cantor has demonstrated “he shouldn’t be at the table,” adding that “it was childish” when the Virginia Republican quit attending negotiating sessions led by Vice President Joe Biden.
Yesterday’s White House negotiating session among President Barack Obama and the top eight congressional leaders, including Reid and Cantor, ended on a tense note. Cantor said afterward in an interview that Obama “got very agitated” and left the room “abruptly” after Cantor suggested a vote on a smaller deal.
“Don’t call my bluff; I am going to the American people,” Obama said, according to Cantor.
Democratic officials disputed that characterization of Obama’s demeanor and said the president had emphasized he believed the lawmakers were engaging in too much political posturing. One Democratic official said Obama reacted after Cantor interrupted him three times.
Laena Fallon, a spokesman for Cantor said, “It’s not surprising that Harry Reid doesn’t want to cut spending and wants to raise taxes with so many Americans out of work. This isn’t a question about personalities -- Eric, President Obama or Harry Reid -- it’s about doing what is right for the country.”
The stalemate prompted Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell this week to offer a “last-choice” plan to give Obama unilateral power to raise the debt ceiling, in an effort to put the onus on the president to identify spending cuts.
“If he and the Democrat Senate would rather borrow and spend us into oblivion, that’s on them,” McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said today. “But don’t expect any more cover from Republicans on it than you got on health care,” he said, referring to last year’s health-care overhaul.
“It’s time to make it clear to the American people where the two parties stand in this debate,” McConnell said.
--With assistance from James Rowley and Mike Dorning in Washington. Editors: Laurie Asseo, Mark McQuillan.
To contact the reporter on this story: Kathleen Hunter in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org
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