Cantor pins S&P decision on Obama

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) on Monday blamed President Obama for Standard and Poor’s decision to downgrade the U.S. credit rating.

Calling the president an “unwilling partner, Cantor said the GOP “had to drag” Obama to the table “to make even the modest spending cuts” that were included in the deal earlier this month to raise the federal debt ceiling. S&P said the package didn’t go far enough in reducing the deficit.

Cantor made the arguments in an op-ed in The Washington Post.

S&P’s decision to downgrade intensified worries on Wall Street about the economy, which increasingly looks unsteady. The agency said it lacked confidence that political leaders in Washington, including both the president and GOP leaders in the House and Senate, could work together to lower the deficit.

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Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) in defending the debt deal, which was criticized by some conservatives, reportedly said he won 98 percent of what he wanted in the package. The deal included none of the tax hikes demanded by Obama, and consisted solely of spending cuts.

Some economists worry the spending cuts could hurt the economy in the short term, though most of the cuts were targeted for later years. In his op-ed, Cantor said further spending would only hurt the economy further.

Economic problems related to the debt deal are a concern for both Obama and House Republicans, since both sides could be politically wounded by the legislation. Obama signed the legislation into law despite some misgivings, and a majority of the House Republican conference supported it.

The shot from Cantor follows Obama’s repeated criticism of Congress, which he said had refused to “put country ahead of party” during the debt talks.

Polls suggest voters have a lack of faith in both Obama and Republican leaders.

Seventy-one percent in a recent Gallup poll said they disapprove of Obama’s handling of the economy. But another Gallup poll shows Democrats with a 51 percent to 44 percent advantage over Republicans in a generic congressional ballot.

Cantor singled out new administration rules affecting cement plants and the construction industry for worsening the jobs crisis.

Cantor ripped an ozone regulation that he said would “affect nearly 100 cement plants” by setting “over-the-top requirements” that would increase costs and move jobs overseas.

He also criticized the “transport rule” promulgated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which Cantor said would cost thousands of jobs.

Cantor singled out the regulations for abuse as part of a broader argument that Obama’s support for higher taxes and more regulations was fueling economic uncertainty.

Cantor also provided a preview of the Republican agenda for the fall, which includes overturning EPA regulations and repealing a rule unpopular with business groups that requires governments to withhold 3 percent from most payments to contractors. Cantor indicated the GOP would also seek to block the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) “from inhibiting where a business chooses to create jobs” in the lawsuit against Boeing’s plant in South Carolina.