Cantor dismisses idea that “trigger” would force GOP to choose between taxes and defense

Shortly after the vote to raise the debt ceiling, I caught up with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., briefly to ask him about an issue I’ve raised in this space: will the negotiated deal force Republicans to choose between raising taxes and cutting defense.

As I noted, the deal sets up a joint Congressional committee to find at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction. And any amount it falls short of that triggers automatic equal cuts in defense and Medicare. So if the Democrats on the committee insist on raising taxes, would Republicans have to either accept those higher taxes, or trigger the defense spending cuts?

“All I know is I think we have a construct here that would force the body and force Congress to implement the savings and cuts that are necessary so that we can continue trying to get the fiscal house in order,” Cantor told me.

I followed up by noting that President Obama has made clear that he wants tax hikes to be part of the next phase of deficit reduction, but Cantor insisted, the “trigger,” or so-called sequestration process, would lead to such painful cuts to both sides that they wouldn’t allow it to happen.

“I think anything like the sequester and the mechanism in the sequester is unacceptable, and that’s what will be the enforcement mechanism for us to work together to come to a result that benefits all of us,” Cantor said.

By the end of December, we’ll know if he was right.

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