Cantor Promises Health Care Vote in 2014; Challenges GOP Lawmakers for New Ideas

In two-hour morning session, the Republican leader identified Obamacare, jobs, the middle class and “opportunity” as themes to discuss.

House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, left, and Speaker John Boehner listen as Majority Leader Eric Cantor speaks to the press on Thursday, July 28, 2011.
National Journal
Tim Alberta
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Tim Alberta
Jan. 30, 2014, 8:29 a.m.

CAM­BRIDGE, Md. — House Re­pub­lic­an lead­er­ship chal­lenged its mem­bers Thursday morn­ing to spend their an­nu­al re­treat pro­du­cing solu­tions to some of the ma­jor prob­lems fa­cing Amer­ic­an fam­il­ies, en­cour­aging a bot­tom-up ap­proach that gives a voice to rank-and-file law­makers, ac­cord­ing to a source in at­tend­ance.

In a two-hour morn­ing ses­sion, Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Eric Can­tor de­livered a present­a­tion on the 2014 agenda. But rather than dic­tate spe­cif­ic policies solu­tions for the House to pur­sue, Can­tor iden­ti­fied four areas where Amer­ic­ans are hurt­ing — and en­cour­aged mem­bers to think about how best to ad­dress them.

As im­ages of Amer­ic­an fam­il­ies danced across the back­ground, Can­tor worked through slides that iden­ti­fied four top­ics Re­pub­lic­ans should ad­dress in 2014: “Obama­care,” “Jobs and Eco­nom­ic Growth,” “Middle Class Squeeze,” and “Op­por­tun­ity.”

On the is­sue of health care, Can­tor prom­ised his col­leagues, “We will rally around an Obama­care al­tern­at­ive, and we will pass it on the floor this year.” That earned the ma­jor­ity lead­er a rous­ing round of ap­plause, al­though Can­tor did not spe­cify the scope of the GOP’s health care solu­tion. (A four-hour ses­sion ded­ic­ated to health care policy is planned for Thursday af­ter­noon.)

Ad­dress­ing jobs and the eco­nomy, Can­tor em­phas­ized the cor­rel­a­tion between un­em­ploy­ment and col­lege edu­ca­tion. He en­cour­aged mem­bers to think about solu­tions for job train­ing pro­grams and ways to lift reg­u­lat­ory re­stric­tions in in­dus­tries that are cur­rently re­luct­ant to hire new work­ers.

The em­phas­is was sim­il­ar when dis­cuss­ing ideas to help the middle class. Can­tor fo­cused on eas­ing reg­u­la­tions to lower costs for work­ing Amer­ic­ans, 76 per­cent of whom he said are liv­ing “paycheck-to-paycheck.” The com­bin­a­tion of high­er cost of liv­ing and lower in­comes is push­ing more and more Amer­ic­ans out of the middle class, Can­tor said.

All three dis­cus­sions bled in­to a broad­er con­ver­sa­tion about cre­at­ing op­por­tun­ity. Aside from ad­dress­ing health care costs and in­dustry-spe­cif­ic reg­u­la­tions, Can­tor en­cour­aged Re­pub­lic­ans to keep edu­ca­tion at the fore­front of their agenda. He said the GOP can make in­roads with lower-in­come and minor­ity voters by stress­ing edu­ca­tion as an av­en­ue to the middle class, spe­cific­ally men­tion­ing charter schools and col­lege af­ford­ab­il­ity as ar­gu­ments the GOP should win.

The over­arch­ing theme for Can­tor’s present­a­tion was “An Amer­ica That Works.” While up­beat in tone, he em­phas­ized how many Amer­ic­ans no longer feel that their chil­dren will have great­er op­por­tun­ity than they did. Can­tor even men­tioned Obama’s line from this week’s State of the Uni­on Ad­dress — about how hard work can get any­one ahead — and said that credo had been ef­fect­ively stolen from Re­pub­lic­ans be­cause they haven’t been suf­fi­ciently fo­cused on provid­ing Amer­ic­ans such op­por­tun­ity.

Can­tor closed by cit­ing Ron­ald Re­agan’s philo­sophy about the gov­ern­ment not be­ing the an­swer to Amer­ic­ans’ prob­lems, and chal­lenged Re­pub­lic­ans to cre­ate a gov­ern­ment “that cre­ates pro­ductiv­ity and op­por­tun­ity…one that’s by your side, not rid­ing your back.”

The ses­sion las­ted two hours. Can­tor’s present­a­tion las­ted 40 minutes, and af­ter­word staffers passed out work­sheets titled “An Amer­ica That Works.” The forms lis­ted those prob­lems and solu­tions dis­cussed in Can­tor’s present­a­tion, and in­cluded blank lines for mem­bers to fill in their own ideas.

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