Majority Leader Eric Cantor (right) partnered up with fellow Virginia Rep. Bobby Scott at Tuesdays State of the Union address after Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi declined his invitation to sit together.
All the recent talk of bipartisanship on Capitol Hill hasn’t thawed the chilly relationship between House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
If anything, it has injected a new level of antagonism between the two leaders.
Pelosi declined Cantor’s invitation Tuesday to sit together during President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address. Some declared it as a slight, although Pelosi insisted that was not the case. She said she had already arranged to pair up with Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.). Cantor’s allies said the Virginia Republican was making a sincere attempt to reach out to his Democratic counterpart.
At the same time, however, Cantor has emerged as the Republican majority’s lead attack dog, and Pelosi is regularly in his sights. He publicly criticized her earlier this week for not doing enough to engage with the GOP and “continuing to drive an ideological agenda just the same as she did over the last four years.”
Pelosi isn’t used to dealing directly with Cantor. As Speaker, she worked more closely with then-Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio). Then-Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, who now serves as Minority Whip, was Cantor’s counter on the Democratic side.
As one GOP leadership aide put it: “The relationship is basically nonexistent” between Pelosi and Cantor.
But in their new roles, the duo will be forced to interact more regularly, particularly as they manage floor operations.
From Cantor’s perspective, he has made every possible effort to engage with Pelosi. He said he tried to meet with the California Democrat three times: when he was elected whip, during the health care debate and to coordinate a bipartisan jobs summit, which never got off the ground.
Cantor spokesman Brad Dayspring said his boss wants to work toward having a better relationship with Pelosi.
“Eric is results driven, but at heart is a thoughtful, cordial guy,” Dayspring said in an e-mail. “He has a great rapport with Mr. Hoyer and would hope to foster a similar, positive working relationship with not only Leader Pelosi, but all of his colleagues no matter their disagreements on policy matters.”
So far, the two Members’ interactions have been limited to bipartisan leadership meetings on the Hill and at the White House, including when then-Speaker Pelosi was meeting with foreign heads of state.