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Time for Election Year Agendas

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call
Speaker John Boehner, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy and other House Republicans hold a news conference to unveil the JOBS Act.

With re-elections every two years, campaigns are never far from the minds of House Members. But Tuesday might have marked the moment when the 2012 presidential contest began to consume the House.

In the morning, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) unveiled a legislative agenda for the coming year explicitly designed to create a contrast with President Barack Obama, all while protecting vulnerable Members.

In the afternoon, House Democrats ambushed Republicans on an economic proposal that has overwhelming support — including Obama’s — spurning a press conference and prompting the conspicuous absence of a high-profile business leader who had been slated to attend.

Late Monday, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) called Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) in a last-ditch bid to get him and other Democrats to join Cantor at a press conference announcing the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act.

The legislation combines a series of measures to boost capital formation for small businesses, many of which passed the House in November with more than 400 votes.

But Hoyer wasn’t interested. He told Cantor “that while he supports the component bills, repackaging old bills isn’t a jobs plan and he’s not going to attend a Republican leadership press conference that says it is,” Hoyer spokeswoman
Katie Grant said.

Instead, Hoyer ripped Cantor’s bill at a Tuesday pen-and-pad with reporters, mocking the “JOBS” acronym as “Just Old Bills” because the package contains several bills that the House has already passed.

“These are six bills that have been passed overwhelmingly. I don’t see any reason why we wouldn’t pass them overwhelmingly again [and] send them to the Senate. This clearly is not a jobs bill that we are looking for — a comprehensive, jobs-producing, jobs-stimulating piece of legislation,” Hoyer said.

The fierce pushback prompted AOL co-founder Steve Case, a well-known entrepreneur whom Obama has tapped to work on job proposals, to drop out of the afternoon press conference announcing the bill, GOP aides said.

Cantor, whose office had advertised Case’s participation in an invite sent to Members, said at the event that Case was “back on a plane, he has to speak at a TED dinner in California tonight.”

Adding to the confusion was the fact that just before Cantor’s press conference, Obama seemed to embrace his bill, which was based largely on recommendations from a jobs council Obama established.

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