Cantor Outlines Ambitious Agenda for Remaining Months of 2013 Session

Eric Cantor
National Journal
Billy House
Sept. 8, 2013, 8 a.m.

House Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Eric Can­tor, R-Va., is telling rank-and-file Re­pub­lic­ans to brace for a ro­bust list of is­sues that need to be ad­dressed this fall, in­clud­ing mil­it­ary ac­tion in Syr­ia, fed­er­al spend­ing, health care, na­tion­al-in­tel­li­gence pro­grams, and cy­ber­se­cur­ity.

In a memo sent out Fri­day, Can­tor urges col­leagues to re­main fo­cused “on our con­ser­vat­ive policies that can help grow the eco­nomy, lessen the bur­den of gov­ern­ment, and provide op­por­tun­ity for work­ing middle-class fam­il­ies.”

The memo gives an out­line of what Can­tor says the House will con­tend with as mem­bers re­turn from the sum­mer re­cess Monday.

On Syr­ia, Can­tor, who has said he sup­ports Pres­id­ent Obama’s call for mil­it­ary ac­tion there, ac­know­ledges that there are dif­fer­ing opin­ions on both sides of the aisle. “It is up to Pres­id­ent Obama to make the case to Con­gress and to the Amer­ic­an people that this is the right course of ac­tion,” he writes. “Mem­bers should ex­pect a ro­bust de­bate and vote on an au­thor­iz­a­tion of use of mil­it­ary force per­tain­ing to Syr­ia in the next two weeks.”

On fed­er­al spend­ing, Can­tor notes that a cur­rent gov­ern­ment spend­ing bill ex­pires at the end of Septem­ber. He does not ex­pli­citly men­tion it, but Re­pub­lic­an lead­ers are already pre­par­ing to bring to the House floor — pos­sibly as early as Thursday — a short-term con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tion to keep gov­ern­ment run­ning bey­ond Sept. 30.

House GOP sources say that the meas­ure would fund op­er­a­tions at post-se­quester an­nu­al levels of $988 bil­lion, which would be a com­prom­ise with the Sen­ate. Wheth­er spend­ing would be ex­ten­ded for one, two, or three months was still be­ing worked out. A vote could be delayed un­til the fol­low­ing week be­cause of the fo­cus on Syr­ia.

On the fed­er­al debt lim­it, Can­tor notes that the ad­min­is­tra­tion an­nounced it ex­pects to run out of bor­row­ing au­thor­ity by mid-Oc­to­ber. “While we do not know the pre­cise date of when that au­thor­ity will lapse, the House will act to pre­vent a de­fault on our ob­lig­a­tions be­fore that point,” he states.

But while Obama and Sen­ate Demo­crats have said they will not bar­gain on the need to be able to pay the na­tion’s debts, Can­tor writes in his memo that “House Re­pub­lic­ans will de­mand fisc­al re­forms and pro-growth policies which put us on a path to bal­ance in 10 years in ex­change for an­oth­er in­crease in the debt lim­it.”

Can­tor also writes about ac­tion on the House’s un­fin­ished por­tion of the farm bill. So far the House has passed a bill deal­ing with ag­ri­cul­ture pro­grams without act­ing on food stamps and oth­er nu­tri­tion­al pro­grams that ac­count for about 80 per­cent of the bill’s nearly $1 tril­lion in fund­ing au­thor­iz­a­tion. However, Can­tor writes that a work­ing group with­in the GOP con­fer­ence has come to­geth­er on a new ver­sion of that por­tion that could save an es­tim­ated $40 bil­lion over 10 years. That would al­most double the sav­ings tied to re­forms ini­tially pro­posed by the House Ag­ri­cul­ture Com­mit­tee.

Can­tor’s in­dic­a­tion is that the House will soon take ac­tion on the un­fin­ished part and then pro­ceed to con­fer­ence with the Sen­ate, which passed its ver­sion of the farm bill in June. Can­tor said that the bill will en­sure that work re­quire­ments for able-bod­ied adults without chil­dren are en­forced — not waived — and elim­in­ate loop­holes ex­ploited over the last few years to avoid the pro­gram’s in­come and as­set tests.

As Speak­er John Boehner, R-Ohio, has pre­vi­ously in­dic­ated, Can­tor also states in his memo that the House will hold a series of votes throughout the fall to dis­mantle, de­fund, and delay im­ple­ment­a­tion of the Af­ford­able Care Act. “The co­ali­tion sup­port­ing Obama­care cracks when forced to vote on the most un­pop­u­lar as­pects of the law,” Can­tor writes.

On im­mig­ra­tion re­form, Can­tor says that the cur­rent im­mig­ra­tion sys­tem “should be fixed in a de­lib­er­ate and re­spons­ible man­ner. “That is why the Ju­di­ciary and Home­land Se­cur­ity com­mit­tees have pro­duced a num­ber of spe­cif­ic bills which the House may be­gin con­sid­er­ing this fall,” he writes.

But he adds, “Be­fore we con­sider any oth­er re­forms, it is im­port­ant that we pass le­gis­la­tion se­cur­ing our bor­ders and provid­ing en­force­ment mech­an­isms to our law-en­force­ment of­fi­cials.”

Can­tor says the House will take up bills to ex­pand en­ergy pro­duc­tion, de­scrib­ing their ap­proaches as en­vir­on­ment­ally friendly and de­signed to lower the price of en­ergy for all Amer­ic­ans. This bi­par­tis­an le­gis­la­tion, he says, would in­clude pro­hib­it­ing the In­teri­or De­part­ment from en­for­cing fed­er­al hy­draul­ic-frac­tur­ing reg­u­la­tions in any state that already has ex­ist­ing reg­u­la­tions and re­cog­nizes states’ rights to reg­u­late this type of activ­ity.

Can­tor also notes the House will take up a bill de­signed to im­prove forest health and ad­dress cata­stroph­ic wild­fires, while also provid­ing a short-term ex­ten­sion of the Se­cure Rur­al Schools pay­ments pro­gram, but some Demo­crats and en­vir­on­ment­al groups have raised con­cerns about as­pects of that bill. He also notes that on tap for ac­tion this fall is the Wa­ter Re­source Re­form and De­vel­op­ment Act of 2013, and that it con­tains no ear­marks.

Can­tor also says that House com­mit­tees will con­tin­ue to pur­sue in­quir­ies in­to al­leged gov­ern­ment ab­uses, such as charges of polit­ic­al tar­get­ing by the In­tern­al Rev­en­ue Ser­vice.

No­tice­ably ab­sent from dis­cus­sion is tax re­form. House GOP lead­ers earli­er this year had said they re­served the sym­bol­ic H.R. 1 des­ig­na­tion for the le­gis­la­tion as a top pri­or­ity. But Can­tor does say, “We will need to ad­dress ad­di­tion­al is­sues this fall, in­clud­ing a re­view of our in­tel­li­gence pro­grams and cy­ber­se­cur­ity,” and that “a vari­ety of oth­er items are likely to be con­sidered.”

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