GOP "young gun" Cantor draws controversy, ire

The House majority leader, Republican Eric Cantor, has been a congressman from Virginia since 2001. He's a favorite of Tea Party activists and conservatives. And now that Cantor is at the center of the budget crisis, he's become a lightening rod, CBS News correspondent Nancy Cordes reports.

In Washington, where the blame game is a blood sport, Democrats have found their fall guy.

"Leader Cantor has yet to make to make a constructive contribution to these negotiations," New York Sen. Chuck Schumer said Thursday.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called Cantor "childish," adding that Cantor "has shown he shouldn't even be at the table -- and Republicans agree he shouldn't be at the table."

The ambitious six-term congressman has given his opponents plenty of ammunition. He abandoned the original debt negotiations, led by Vice President Joe Biden, when talk turned to tax increases. Then he pulled House Speaker John Boehner back from a grand bargain with the president because taxes were part of the deal.

"I cannot fathom how anybody thinks right now is a good time to raise taxes," he said on the House floor last week.

Cantor's hard line approach has endeared him to Tea Party members, who question Boehner's commitment to their cause: No new taxes.

Asked if he feels he's being scapegoated by the Democrats, Cantor told Cordes, "You know, this is not a game. This is serious stuff. We've got a job to do and that is to ensure that we don't default on our debt."

Cantor, 48, fashions himself a "young gun" of the Republican Party -- and has a book and video making the claim.

And despite persistent rumors that Cantor is gunning for his job, Boehner defended his embattled lieutenant today.

"We have been in this fight together, and any suggestion that the role that Eric has played in this meeting has been anything less than helpful is just wrong," Boehner said.

Asked where he was willing to compromise on the debt, Cantor said that the very fact that he's willing to raise the debt limit is a compromise. But he's voted to raise it four times in the past when President George W. Bush was in office.

  • Nancy Cordes On Twitter»

    Nancy Cordes is CBS News' congressional correspondent.

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