WASHINGTON -- Vice President Joe Biden trashed congressional Republican leaders on Monday night for their failure to deliver on a debt deal last summer, saying that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) even shook hands with him on an agreement only to later back off because he said he would lose his leadership position over it.
Aides to GOP leaders are refuting Biden's recollection of events, however.
During a fundraiser in Washington, D.C., Biden recalled his negotiations with House and Senate Republican leaders last summer over raising the debt ceiling.
"There’s nobody in charge,” Biden told attendees at the fundraiser, according to a White House pool report. He said he "made three deals” on a way to raise the debt ceiling -- one with Cantor, one with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and one with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) -- but none came to fruition.
The vice president said he first went to Cantor and the two shook hands on an agreement. But then, Cantor called him later and said, "I can't do it. I'll lose my position."
Biden went on to say he struck a similar deal with McConnell, but then he, too, backed out. Biden said he then made a deal with Boehner, but after six hours, Boehner called back to say, "I can't do it," according to the pool report.
“I don’t criticize these guys because they meant what they said,” said the vice president. “But then they went and they couldn’t get it done."
Cantor spokeswoman Laena Fallon denied that the two ever shook hands on a deal and said Biden's comments were simply untrue.
"Leader Cantor and Vice President Biden developed a strong working relationship which shows that things are possible even in a divided Washington. Working together, Leader Cantor and the Vice President identified over two trillion in potential spending cuts, establishing a framework for the most achievable and realistic compromise. The sticking point for both sides that prevented an agreement has always been clear: raising taxes on families and small businesses is a non starter for Republicans, just as repeal of ObamaCare is a non starter for the White House," Fallon said in a statement to The Huffington Post.
Similarly, Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said Biden's portrayal of events wasn't accurate.
"On what planet did these negotiations take place? That's a shameless fabrication that everyone knows cannot be substantiated. The Vice President should explain his wild claim or take it back," Steel said.
McConnell spokesman Don Stewart said there were no debt limit agreements made by anyone, "not even tentative agreements," that weren't ultimately signed into law. "So it remains a mystery to us what the VP meant in his fundraiser speech," he said.
Lawmakers ultimately reached an August agreement to raise the debt limit by $2.4 trillion after a months-long, grueling, partisan fight over spending priorities and proposed cuts. But the ceiling was only raised by $2.1 trillion in the end after the congressional "Super Committee" failed to reach a deal on long-term spending cuts that were part of the final agreement.
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