Just after 2 p.m. on Wednesday, something remarkable happened on the House floor.
Two bills negotiated by Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) overwhelmingly passed the House in rapid succession.
The two men, best known for their years of confrontational sparring during weekly colloquies, have never enjoyed the close personal rapport Hoyer had with Cantor’s predecessor on the floor, now-Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.). Moreover, they have rarely struck bipartisan legislative compromises.
But their successful shepherding of these bills, particularly the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, shows they can work together when called upon to do so.
“It’s an unusual day isn’t it?” Hoyer joked, leaving the House floor.
Hoyer and Cantor have long worked together on matters relating to Israel, so the Wednesday passage of a Cantor-Hoyer resolution regarding the United States-Israel strategic relationship came as no surprise.
But the Export-Import Bank reauthorization marks the first major piece of legislation not related to Israel that the two leaders successfully negotiated. Unlike previous abortive negotiations on health care reform, and more recently deficit reduction, the two leaders worked for more than a month to find a compromise. That bill passed the House on Wednesday on a 330-93 vote.
Hoyer conceded that the two men have a hot-and-cold relationship, which he chalked up to the current political climate.
“Mr. Cantor is the leader of his party, and he wants to lead his faction. And the Republican party a lot of times recently is pretty divided, so he’s trying to manage that, and it makes it difficult for him to deal with me,” Hoyer said.
Cantor, too, pointed to the political divide as a factor limiting major bipartisan laws.
“There’s a divide in this town, and that divide has to do with tax policy, with health care policy, and perhaps those issues are going to be left to the election,” he said. “But there’s a lot of other things we can do to help grow this economy without having to spend money.”
He said the idea that the two don’t work well together is overblown.
“We’ve always had a good personal relationship, really, despite what, perhaps, you or others have liked to write,” Cantor said. “We’ve always had a very straightforward and frank relationship and ability to communicate to one another and know where one another is.”