Cantor Sees Hope for 2010
Six months into the 111th Congress, House Republicans have been unable to significantly chip away at President Barack Obama’s high approval ratings, but they have found a target in Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who has seen her own approval ratings drop since the beginning of the year.
In an interview with Roll Call on Friday, Minority Whip Eric Cantor (Va.) previewed what will likely become a GOP refrain in the 2010 midterm elections: Pelosi’s refusal to include Republicans in discussions about policy has been detrimental to the country and voters should reassert a counterbalance to Democratic authority.
Cantor argued that the Speaker has refused to meet with him and other senior Republicans even as lower-ranking Democrats are carrying on productive policy discussions.
Bipartisan “meetings occur every day here with Members at subcommittee and committee level,— Cantor said. “There are some productive meetings that are occurring on health care, there are some productive meetings that are occurring on the question of energy and the economy,—
But “there is clearly an unwillingness this far for the Speaker to engage in any kind of constructive discussions with our side,— he said.
Pelosi did meet with moderate Republicans Thursday to discuss climate change, but Cantor dismissed this outreach. “A better way is for her to meet with our leaders, and let’s get serious and sit down and see what we can accomplish.—
Republicans initially held off on criticizing the newly minted president. During the stimulus debate, they often lauded his efforts to reach out to the minority party and contrasted him with Pelosi, who they said had shut them out of the process.
Cantor said he frequently has “very constructive meetings— with Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). “But let’s face it: The Speaker controls the agenda around here. She has demonstrated no willingness to work in that fashion,— he said.
Cantor said he supports the White House’s effort to reach out to Republicans, but he cautioned that the administration has not yet embraced any major GOP ideas.
“You have to hand it to the White House. At least they say, Come on over here and let’s talk,’— Cantor said. “Now we’ve got trouble in following that up — obviously they have a lot of their plate, so do we. … They are busy running this country, so we stand ready, willing and able— to assist.
Cantor acknowledged Obama’s high personal approval rating but said that public confidence in his agenda has waned.
“Their policy agenda has run into big trouble,— he said. “You know, the president remains very popular personally; however, their agenda does not enjoy the same support of the American public.—
Cantor expressed confidence that Democrats would continue to give Republicans fodder to make their case that a more balanced legislative branch is needed because of the majority’s aggressive agenda, the “incredible extension of government into our economy— and “exorbitant spending.—
“America by November 2010 will want a check and a balance on [Democrats’] unfettered power,— Cantor said.
Cantor insisted that Republicans cans regain the majority in 2010, despite going into the election cycle with a double-digit seat deficit in the House. To do so, the party must reach out to demographics that are traditionally Democratic strongholds, such Hispanics and college students, he said.
He brushed off the suggestions that inflammatory comments made by conservatives such as former Vice President Dick Cheney and talk-show host Rush Limbaugh could hurt this effort.
“Our party is one that should include a lot of different people and a lot of different personalities,— he said. “Just like Ronald Reagan would have never excluded anyone from the party.—
In the spring, Cantor helped launch the National Council for a New America, a policy group of national Republican leaders aimed at convening town-hall-style meetings around the country to discuss issues ranging from health care to energy.
“We absolutely need to go out and foster discussions,— Cantor said. “These need to be policy-based discussions, and to me it is about striking a chord of a common sense, reasoned, conservative approach because I believe that is the majority of this country.—
Cantor said he expects to announce the next meeting of the group this week.
But speculation about Cantor’s political ambitions and the group’s reliance on possible Republican presidential candidates such as former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and 2008 vice presidential nominee Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin have made the group a lightning rod for criticism that it is simply a campaign testing ground.
“If some want to throw accusations — It’s a campaign’— that’s not true,— Cantor said. “It is my intention to try and open up the debate. People are looking for another way to begin to involve themselves in the debate, and, frankly, we should be searching for ways to encourage people to vest themselves in what goes on in this town so we can get back on track.—