Hoyer, Cantor go mano a mano

Things got a little testy on the House floor Thursday evening as Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) went a few rounds on topics ranging from funding for the International Monetary Fund to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

As is customary on the House, the two were combative yet genteel after Hoyer laid out the schedule for the House next week.

The exchange made for great political theatre. Let's go to the tape, er, Congressional Record.

Round 1: Money for the IMF in the war supplemental. At issue is whether the U.S. should add several billion to the war supplemental if that money could go to unfriendly nations.
CANTOR: Mr. Speaker, I would say to the gentleman that he just referred to and announced that we would be considering the war funding supplemental conference report next week. I would ask the gentleman: Does he expect the very controversial Senate-passed provision providing for the IMF money to be included in the conference report?
I yield.

HOYER: I thank the gentleman for yielding. As you know, the Senate added the IMF funding to the bill. It is a loan guaranty. We expect the probability that there will be no out-of-pocket money for the United States, but there is a loan guaranty to the IMF...

[After the G-20 summit], The President agreed that the United States would, with the G-20, meet its part of the obligation that had been agreed upon. The Senate included that. And the answer to the gentleman's question is, I fully expect that to be in the supplemental that we'll consider on the floor.

Take that, Cantor! Or did Hoyer just walk into a trap? The money, Cantor says, is a "global bailout" when the money should be going to troops.
CANTOR: Mr. Speaker, even further, we understand that in this provision in the bill, in essence we would be providing for more money for foreign countries in terms of a global bailout than we would be for our own troops...

And the even more troubling part to many of us, Mr. Speaker, is the fact that the IMF program allows eligibility for countries like Iran, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, Burma and others.

Zing! Hoyer won't take that lying down.
HOYER: I thank the gentleman for yielding. The gentleman's premise is incorrect. None of us on this side think we ought to delay this bill. None of us. We believe that the troops need the funds, our President has asked for the funds, we're for passing those funds.

And Hoyer isn't done.
HOYER: Furthermore, let me say to the gentleman we just honored a president that you believe was a great President of the United States. We honored him yesterday with a statue. I know you'll be interested in some quotes from that President: "I have an unbreakable commitment to increased funding for IMF.'' Ronald Reagan, September 7, 1983.

He went on to say in that same speech, "The IMF is the linchpin of the international financial system.'' He went on to say on July 14, "The IMF has been a cornerstone of U.S. foreign economic policy under Republican and Democratic administrations for nearly 40 years.''

The Reagan Card.
HOYER: Another President on September 25, 1990, said this: George Bush, President of the United States, "The IMF and World Bank, given their central role in the world economy, are key to helping all of us throughthis situation by providing a combination of policy advice and financial assistance.'' September 25, 1990.

And the Bush 1 card! Hoyer was clearly prepared for this. But so was Cantor.
CANTOR: Mr. Speaker, reclaiming my time. I will tell the gentleman, New York Times, May 27, 2009, pointed out Hezbollah, the Shiite militant group involved in Lebanon and its government, had talks with the IMF to discuss the possibility of the extension of credit...We are very, very concerned. There is a real possibility that some of the world's worst regimes will have access to additional resources that will be provided to the IMF, and is he not concerned about that?

The Hezbollah card. Luckily, Hoyer's got two more cards in his deck.
HOYER: The reason the Reagan administration and the first Bush administration--and I might say, although I don't have a quote from the second Bush administration, the second Bush administration, as well, was a supporter of the IMF as the gentleman, perhaps, knows.

The fact of the matter is the United States will play a very significant role in the decisionmaking of the IMF because we're a very significant contributor. It is a red herring, from my perspective, to raise the fact that money could go somewhere. Of course money could go somewhere.

The Bush 2 card! And Hoyer re-raises a "red herring card."

Cantor, however, is ready to move on to Round 2: Pelosi and the CIA. Cantor argues that Pelosi should no longer receive intelligence briefings since she has alleged that the CIA lied to her about the use of torture in a 2003 briefing.
CANTOR: If the Speaker has alleged that there is untruthfulness, if there is a lack of candor on the part of those giving the briefings, isn't it somehow compromising in those briefings the national security of our country? And I yield.

Here is where things get more interesting. The GOP clearly sees an opportunity with Pelosi, as her recent poll numbers suggest. Hoyer appears to take offense at Cantor's allegation.
HOYER: Absolutely not. There is no belief, I think, of anybody in this House, I hope--and I certainly do not believe that in any way the speaker has ever, nor would she ever compromise in any way the security of our country, the security of our troops, and the security of our people, period.

And the gloves come off. Hoyer, after making sure to thank Cantor for yielding the floor, says his logic is incomprehensible.
HOYER: I must say, I really have difficulty following the gentleman's reasoning, with all due respect. The fact of the matter is that we have oversight. I see [Intelligence ranking member Pete] Hoekstra (R-Mich.) on the floor. I don't know that [Intelligence Chairman Silvestre] Reyes (D-Texas) is on the floor. But we have a mechanism for oversight of the CIA and of our intelligence units. My presumption is that intelligence oversight is, in fact, working.

Cantor plays it cool and even says the issue is not partisan, it's about transparency.
CANTOR: Again, the gentleman and I can have a discussion here without such allegations being made on the floor. The position that we have taken is in response to direct statements made by the speaker. There is no partisan accusation here. This is in response to direct statements made by the speaker. We have a situation that we need some type of independent third party to intervene here.

Hoyer is having none of it. After repeating that he is "confounded" by Cantor, comes this great exchange.
HOYER: So I continue to be confused that your focus is on the speaker, not on the quality of the information.
CANTOR: Reclaiming my time.
HOYER: Every time you don't like my answer, frankly, Mr. Cantor, you reclaim your time. I regret that.
CANTOR: Mr. Speaker, I would just respond to the gentleman. I am focusing on the Speaker because that's where the statements came from.
HOYER: No. The statements came from the CIA, apparently.

jeremy.jacobs@thehill.com

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