Rep. Eric Cantor (R., Va.) tells National Review Online that President Obama’s negotiating style leaves much to be desired.
“He’s overly sensitive to someone differing with him on policy grounds,” Cantor says.
And he’s isn’t persuasive. “There’s never any sort of economic argument that he can make for his position. It always reverts to that social-justice end,” Cantor argues.
Not that Obama uses the phrase “social justice.” “It’s ‘fairness.’”
What’s more, Obama’s prickliness is “directly opposite” Cantor’s experience with Vice President Joe Biden: “I had almost seven weeks with the vice president, and those talks were substantive. He and I spoke weekly. Our staffs met daily. The agenda was set. Our staffs had done the initial ‘tolerance test’ as to probing how far either side could go on a particular issue. And if it was too far, we tried to stay away from it.”
By contrast, Cantor believes the president’s ideological mindset is impenetrable: “This guy just doesn’t get it.”
The majority leader also sees a change in the House GOP’s management style from the last time it held the majority. The night of the first scheduled vote on Speaker John Boehner’s debt-ceiling proposal, Cantor estimates that leadership was down about a dozen votes. In the past, leadership would hold a vote even when its position was more precarious — and keep it open until victory was secure.
“We didn’t want to do that, and I think it’s just the speaker’s style,” Cantor says. “He wanted to make sure that we were trying to address everybody’s concerns. And I think it proved to be a longer-term play, which is beneficial.”
Going forward, Cantor says the House GOP will follow a two-track approach to creating a growth agenda: tax reform and reducing regulations. “We’ve inventoried out of the various committees the top ten regulations that are impeding job growth. And each week in the ten weeks that we’re back, we’re going to focus on them and try to demonstrate why it is they don’t make sense.”
On tax reform, Cantor is less optimistic: “I just don’t believe you’re going to get tax reform the way we want tax reform with this president in the White House and the Democrats in control of the Senate.”
Still, he lists a few options: preventing the 3 percent withholding requirement for government contractors, allowing for repatriation of overseas profits, and passing some of the stalled free-trade deals.
Then there’s the select committee. Cantor hopes that it will focus on the task at hand: cutting spending. And he believes the almost $2.3 trillion in cuts discussed during the Biden talks could prove to be useful material.
But he warns, “With Harry Reid and the president insisting on ‘a big deal’ and tax reform, I’m worried. Because, going back to my experience in the Biden talks and at the White House, they will not go to entitlement reform — even their kind of entitlement reform — without tax-rate increases.”
Democrats’ kind of entitlement reform, Cantor contends, is the kind that doesn’t solve the problem: changing the eligibility age for Medicare, means-testing the program, and adjusting the inflation rate used to calculate increases in Social Security payments. Never will Democrats assent to a premium-support model for Medicare.
“If you know that they’re not going there,” Cantor says, “then they want these intermediate changes in entitlements, but won’t do that unless you raise taxes — to me, it’s a nonstarter.”
Yes, the committee sounds primed for deadlock. Because Cantor vows: “The House is not going to support tax increases. Period.”