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Numerous aides on both sides of the aisle confirmed a coolness to the relationship, citing several possible explanations. Among them, an age gap (Cantor is 48 and Hoyer is 72), a difference in style (the all-business Cantor clashes with the affable Hoyer) and their divergent constituencies.
“They’re not chummy,” one former senior House aide said. “Maybe an arms-length sort of relationship.”
Despite the fact that both men said they would be happy to work together on more issues, aides said the Ex-Im Bank success should not be viewed as a sign of a warming relationship.
“I think that they both have important constituencies that they were working on behalf of, so I don’t think they looked at each other one night at the dinner table and said, ‘You know what? There are some things that we have in common,’” one GOP aide said. “They bit the bullet and worked together despite their differences, not to heal their differences.”
Notably, the Ex-Im Bank deal pitted stalwart GOP groups against each other, with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in favor and the Club for Growth and Heritage Action for America opposed.
One veteran GOP aide speculated that after the ups and downs Cantor has had this year, he might be looking to demonstrate his ability to pass legislation and be an effective leader. “Cantor wants some notches on his belt, and right now, he needs Steny to do that,” the aide said.
On that topic, Hoyer agreed. “The Republican Party obviously now is deeply divided on Ex-Im,” Hoyer said. “Obviously, Mr. Cantor knew he couldn’t get the votes on his side.”
That theory was proved to be true when 93 Republicans voted against the Ex-Im Bank deal. Rep. Mick Mulvaney, one of the “no” votes, said conservative voices were squelched in the process.
“Does it concern me that we’re negotiating with Democrats? We’ve been doing that for the last 16 months. Does it concern me? Yes. Does it surprise me? No,” the South Carolina Republican said. “Conservatives in both the House and the Senate went to leadership on both sides and said, ‘Look here’s some conservative reforms.’ And we were told very politely on both sides of the building, ‘Thanks very much, but we don’t need your votes.’”
The climate led one former senior House aide to speculate that even Hoyer and Blunt, who famously spent time together outside work as genuine friends, could not work together today.
“Even if Blunt was Majority Leader, they would maybe not have found more opportunities to work together because of the positions of the two caucuses,” the aide said.
John Stanton contributed to this report.