Cantor to AOL founder: Bipartisanship isn’t easy in this Congress

Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) walked a fine line at a jobs forum Monday as he told a prominent business leader that bipartisanship on Capitol Hill might be elusive this election year. 

The House majority leader appeared surprised by AOL founder Steve Case’s 2012 legislative outlook during a “YG Network” forum led by former Cantor deputy chief of staff John Murray. 

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For nearly 10 minutes, Case spoke of his “optimism” that Congress and the White House could agree on several new laws to give entrepreneurs a boost to spur economic growth. 

“There is a moment in the next couple months in which we do have bipartisan support for pro-entrepreneurship legislation,” Case said, listing three measures: relaxing regulations that make it expensive for private companies to go public, a “crowd funding” bill and an effort to give a green card to highly skilled immigrants who graduate from U.S. universities. 

Case, who is a member of the president’s jobs council, said there are many similarities in what the White House has proposed and bills that are pending in the House and Senate. “[T]here really is an opportunity here and we have to capitalize on it, focus less on press releases and more on working together to forge a partnership around this legislation.” 

Cantor, who has had a frosty relationship with President Obama, later said, “Steve, I’m going to hop in … I agree … but when you deal with the sort of rhetoric that has been so omnipresent in this town about dividing the rich and poor, instead of saying we’re all in this together — this is the frustration — that we want to do some good, set aside that kind of nonsense.”

Backing up Cantor, Rep. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) explained how difficult it is for the House, Senate and White House to enact these measures.

Case conceded that many considered him naïve for believing that Congress and the White House could put aside their differences on bills that could help the economy. 

Yet, there have been signs of bipartisanship in recent weeks on a range of issues, including Iran sanctions, a line-item veto, banning insider trading from members of Congress and a thorny Federal Aviation Administration bill.  

Cantor subsequently told reporters that Case agreed to reach out to the White House and Democrats to act on the bills he detailed.

“I asked him, I said, ‘Are you going to talk to the president? Because we really need to set aside the differences we’ve got in the entitlement area, the fiscal area,’ and he said he’s working with [National Economic Council Director] Gene Sperling and seems to be very willing. Again, we’ve all been around here the last three years and we know where their head is at in the administration and I’d like to have a belief that Steve is right — that we have a two-, three-month window to do something. We’re not going to give up,” Cantor said.

Cantor noted that the House acted on a highly skilled immigration bill to increase the number of country caps on such workers, but the Senate has yet to vote on it.

He said he is committed to working on enacting a bill on crowd funding, which is a method of capital formation where groups of people pool money, often through platforms on the Internet.

The House overwhelmingly passed Rep. Patrick McHenry’s (R-N.C.) crowd-funding measure in November. The Obama administration has endorsed the bill. 

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