Aug. 21, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Hoyer and Cantor Just Can’t Play Nice

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer has had about enough of Minority Whip Eric Cantor.

The country is fighting two wars, an environmental disaster in the Gulf and a massive deficit, and every week the Maryland Democrat has to listen to the Virginia Republican go on for half an hour about the need to “stop the spending.”

The Members’ rhetorical duels on the floor are ostensibly to discuss the schedule, but they have lately sounded more like the United States’ version of question time for the British prime minister, with Cantor using his platform to needle Hoyer incessantly in hopes of creating a YouTube moment.

The exchanges are a far cry from the weekly chats Hoyer used to enjoy with his longtime friend, former Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), which featured good-natured jousting but also made it at least appear as if they really meant it when they called each other “gentleman.”

Not so much with Hoyer and Cantor.

The weekly colloquy always begins the same way: Cantor rises on one side of the chamber and requests to be recognized “to address the House for one minute for the purpose of inquiring about next week’s schedule.”

Hoyer then gives a quick rundown of the schedule and then offers the Virginia Republican the floor for any additional questions.

Then things turn ugly.

A few weeks back, Cantor had just launched his YouCut website that urges people to vote on their favorite Republican ideas for cutting spending, and he implored Hoyer again and again to allow the GOP proposals to come to the floor.

After listening to Cantor outline such narrow proposals as eliminating a $290 million line item for presidential election campaigns while simultaneously blasting Democrats for big deficits, Hoyer pounced.

“I don’t want to get too personal on this, but what do you think about cutting the spending for the high-speed rail between Richmond and Washington?” Hoyer asked.

The zinger was aimed at what Democrats consider to be Cantor’s hypocrisy as he opposes earmarks and the 2009 stimulus package while seeking infrastructure spending for a high-speed rail line to his district.

Cantor appeared to be momentarily thrown off his stride and started to defend federal spending on the rail line as a job creator.

Hoyer quipped, “Is that a ‘no’?”

“That has always been my position,” Cantor replied.

A senior Democratic aide said Cantor, who is nearly 24 years Hoyer’s junior, has been playing up the back-and-forth for the cameras.

“Cantor is so enthralled with the 30-second commercial he thinks he is creating on the floor that he doesn’t notice when we’re about to whack him on the head with a two-by-four,” the aide said.

Such hits aren’t really Hoyer’s style — he would prefer the more collegial conversations that he once had with Blunt, “but that’s not what Cantor’s interested in,” the aide said. Instead, Cantor has been using the weekly duel to try to create a splash. “It’s typical Cantor style, with an attempt at flash and no substance.”

But Cantor’s team said any complaints from Democrats — and Hoyer’s attacks — show the Minority Whip is winning the day.

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