By Russell Berman - 02/08/11 09:07 PM EST
A day before he is to meet with President Obama at the White House, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) sharply criticized the president for suggesting a “quid pro quo” between Washington policymakers and private business.
Cantor said Obama’s message to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which he addressed Monday, “misses the mark.” In his speech to the business group, the president said that just as the government has a responsibility to encourage private-sector growth, “businesses also have a responsibility to America.”
Cantor said he thought that amounted to a “quid pro quo.”
“What I heard was a sense that somehow business in America needs to respond and act in a way that is somehow grateful for Washington’s acts,” the majority leader told reporters at his weekly briefing. “This sort-of quid pro quo that if Washington acts to do whatever it is the president’s proposing, whether it's reducing corporate rates or passing trade bills, that somehow business owes it to the country to do X, Y, Z. I think that misses the mark.”
“Washington doesn’t just wave a magic wand and necessarily business creates jobs,” Cantor added. “That’s not how it works. That’s the whole point here.”
Cantor said he hoped to discuss Obama’s speech when he, along with Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and GOP Whip Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), head to the White House Wednesday to have lunch with the president.
“I’m very appreciative of the invite and look forward to the discussion,” Cantor said of the first exclusive meeting between Obama and the top three House Republicans since the GOP took the majority.
The leaders are also expected to discuss the economy and federal spending, where a gap is growing between the amount of money Republicans want to cut from the federal budget and what Democrats and the Obama administration have signaled they will support.
House Republicans will bring up a short-term spending bill next week to fund the government beyond March 4, when current funding runs out. GOP leaders are initially proposing $32 billion in cuts from current levels, but Cantor reiterated that deeper cuts may be added because the majority will allow amendments on the floor.
Cantor also said Tuesday that the funding measure, known as a continuing resolution, would not include money to implement Obama’s healthcare law, which the GOP has tried unsuccessfully to repeal. The administration is likely to fight for funds to implement the law.
The majority leader passed on a chance to criticize Obama for his handling of protests in Egypt. The president, Cantor said, “has had a tough enough time as it is” without hearing criticism from every member of Congress on the issue. He said America’s “primary goal should be to stop the spread of radical Islam.”