House Majority Leader Eric Cantor today blamed hyper-partisanship in Washington, D.C., for the lagging unemployment rate and challenged President Barack Obama to temper his own rhetoric so the two sides can better work together.
And one possible area of agreement is a White House priority: an extension of a one year payroll tax cut.
“It’s certainly part of the mix as we talk about how to go forward in terms of tax policy over the next four months,” the Virginia Republican said at a Christian Science Monitor lunch, hours before Obama was set to address a joint session of Congress on his jobs agenda.
As for other areas of compromise, Cantor suggested that Obama avoid pushing for a grand bargain to boost the economy. Cantor cautioned the president to work with Congress following tonight’s address, rather than launch into a partisan war.
“I think it may surprise us all how quickly optimism can turn if the relations between the parties in this town could somehow improve and demonstrate that we can actually produce a result,” Cantor said.
Republican House leaders, including Speaker John Boehner and Cantor, have challenged the Obama administration’s policies while pushing for the two parties to come together and enact new ones. The approach comes on the heels of the summer’s bruising debate over the debt limit and a continuing plunge in polls for all sides.
In the months ahead, Cantor said the administration and Congress should “set our sights on a path to make incremental progress towards addressing the crises before us.” In the immediate future, Cantor warned Obama not to “lay out a position tonight in which we either accept his bill or somehow we’re un-American.”
“I know that’s been a lot of the rhetoric coming out of the White House lately, [that] if we don’t agree with the president then that means we’re putting politics above country,” Cantor said.
Asked about his relationship with Obama, Cantor said the two have only disagreed on policies and he “respect[s] his intellect, his ability to express his ideas.” But the Virginian had warmer words for Vice President Joseph Biden, with whom Cantor worked during negotiations on the debt deal.
It was “a much different experience working with the vice president than working with the president,” Cantor said, noting that Biden was “very deliberate in terms of reaching out.” Cantor ultimately walked out on the bipartisan debt talks, however.
Still, Cantor predicted the Obama-Biden ticket would not win Virginia in the 2012 election, as it did in 2008.
“I don’t think they’ll win Virginia this time. The Commonwealth has entirely too many people out of work,” he said.
Cantor said the administration’s policies, from the stimulus program to the health care reform law, will drive voters away from Obama next year.
“I think the people in my state have seen the economic policies coming, that which is most important right now, coming out of this White House and this president, are not that which we” will support, Cantor said.