By Russell Berman - 06/10/11 07:53 PM EDT
Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) provided Republican lawmakers with a preview of the House’s summer agenda Friday, telling them to expect votes on a trio of trade agreements in July and to gird for a major tax battle with Democrats.
In a lengthy memo, Cantor told lawmakers to “prepare for [a] looming fight” over the expiration of George W. Bush-era tax rates, which Congress in December extended through 2012.
“Above all else, we should prepare now for the inevitable effort by the president and [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid to raise taxes on small businesses and families next year,” Cantor wrote. “Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats are already attempting to do so — look no further than their alternative budget resolution from April. It is important that we, too, prepare for this looming fight and defend small businesses and job creators from Democrat tax increases.”
The majority leader noted that Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, will hold hearings on his own proposal for a comprehensive tax overhaul, but he did not say whether he expected the House to vote on a package this summer.
On trade, House Republicans are pushing President Obama to submit agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea for ratification, but the administration is demanding the House approve an extension of trade adjustment assistance beforehand. Cantor vowed to keep the pressure on Obama, and indicated he expected the dispute to be resolved in the next several weeks.
“As soon as the president moves, this House will act,” Cantor wrote. “At this time, I would expect votes on the Colombia, Panama and South Korea free trade agreements during the month of July.”
The House also plans to vote in July and August on a series of bills to curb excessive federal regulation, Cantor said, along with a major patent reform measure this month.
Lawmakers will take up energy legislation in the upcoming work period, including bills to expedite oil drilling in Alaska and the construction of the Keystone oil pipeline. The bulk of the remaining summer schedule will deal with the 11 remaining appropriations bills, Cantor said, beginning with legislation funding military construction and Veterans Affairs, agriculture and the Department of Defense in June.
Cantor provided no new guidance on plans to raise the federal debt ceiling other than to say he expects “related action” on the issue throughout the summer. The majority leader is a negotiator in the group led by Vice President Biden to forge an agreement on pairing a debt-limit increase with long-term deficit reduction.
In response to Cantor's memo and its criticism of Democrats, Nadeam Elshami, a spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, said: “Republicans have been MIA on jobs and their record is clear: 157 days without a single vote on jobs legislation on the floor. Americans want action, not just talk. It’s time for GOP to be serious about jobs instead of pushing their ideological agenda that ends Medicare and weakens the middle class.”
Updated at 4:54 p.m.