House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has publicly voiced his opposition to the Senate “fiscal cliff” deal that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Vice President Joe Biden cut late on New Year’s eve, and which passed early today by an 89-8 vote.
“I do not support the bill,” Cantor told reporters on Tuesday afternoon.
CNN reports that “House Speaker John Boehner and House GOP Whip Kevin McCarthy both declined to answer questions as they emerged from the meeting.”
Given multiple opportunities, House Speaker John Boehner spokesman Michael Steel would not answer when asked if Boehner stands with Cantor on this deal. Fox News’ Bret Baier reported that Boehner aide Brendan Buck had told him that the Speaker remains open to working with the bill, possibly using amendments to bounce the bill back to the Senate.
The number two House Republican may smell blood in the water around Boehner, who hasn’t said either way where he stands on the bill. For weeks, some have speculated Cantor may make a move at Boehner for the speakership–especially after conservatives in the House killed Boehner’s fiscal cliff “Plan B.”
Boehner has, en masse, lost support of House Republicans, especially conservatives, after the Plan B debacle and his purge of conservative members from powerful House committees. Behind closed doors, they’ve drafted a plan to unseat Boehner–and they’ve viewed Cantor as a potentially acceptable replacement, though they would prefer a more conservative leader.
Now, Boehner and Cantor are on different pages publicly pushing different agendas. This might be Cantor’s move for the speakership, especially if the already politically weakened Boehner brings the controversial Biden-McConnell fiscal cliff deal to the floor as is.
House Republicans are, like Cantor, overwhelmingly opposed to the bill. Democratic House leaders Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer have called for an up-or-down vote on the deal, even though they wouldn’t release a whip count of how many of their members support or oppose it.