Cantor calls for bipartisanship to help Americans make their lives 'work again'

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor outlined a list of policy prescriptions on Tuesday designed to "make life work" for Americans.

The Virginia Republican filled his speech at the American Enterprise Institute with agenda items related to the fiscal battles being fought on Capitol Hill. And he focused much of his address on families, referencing words such as family 27 times, parents 25 times, children 20 times and kids 11 times.

Other policy items Cantor discussed include granting more visas to highly skilled workers; creating a breakdown of college cost for students and parents; reconfiguring education costs; providing more streamlined federal job training; lowering healthcare costs in Medicare and Medicaid; and investing in medical research.

Democrats did not let the speech go unanswered, though not all responses were direct.

President Obama did not mention Cantor's speech but managed to ruffle feathers with a hastily called press conference Tuesday that overlapped with the House majority leader's speech and drew attention away from the GOP event.

Though Cantor did discuss immigration reform, he was short on specifics other than starting "with the kids.”

"It's no secret that there are more than 11 million people here illegally, many of whom have become part of the fabric of our country. They, like us, have families and dreams. ... A good place to start is with the kids. One of the great founding principles of our country was that children would not be punished for the mistakes of their parents. It is time to provide an opportunity for legal residence and citizenship for those who were brought to this country as children and who know no other home," Cantor told a crowded room of reporters and conservative scholars.

Asked if Cantor now supported the DREAM Act, a source close to the House majority leader clarified that Cantor “did not endorse” a particular policy to deal with children of illegal immigrants.

Cantor said that the president should take the lead on immigration reform.

"There are some who would rather avoid fixing the problem in order to save this as a political issue. I reject this notion and call on the president to help lead us towards a bipartisan solution rather than encourage the common political divisions of the past," Cantor said.

As for dealing with Medicare and Medicaid, Cantor called both entitlement programs "broken."

"These programs are broken, and many patients are going without proper care," he said. "That's not fair to the people who depend on these programs. We’ve got to fix them."

On Medicare, Cantor said "we should begin by ending the arbitrary division between Part A, the hospital program; and Part B, the doctor services. We can create reasonable and predictable levels of out-of-pocket expenses without forcing seniors to rely on Medigap plans."

On Medicaid, Cantor suggested that giving states "more flexibility" is the answer.

"Options for states should include streamlining the process for determining eligibility, and allowing them to offer health coverage through patient-directed healthcare or flexible benefit programs. And we must make it faster and simpler for states to gain approval of federal waivers to modify their Medicaid programs," Cantor said.

In discussing the plethora of matters, Cantor was joined by individuals who represented each policy issue.

The majority leader said he hopes that Obama will work with Republicans to help move solutions to education, healthcare, immigration and other areas.

"It is my hope that I can stand before you in two years and report back that our side, as well as the president's, found within us the ability to set differences aside, to provide relief to so many millions of Americans who simply want their life to work again," Cantor said.

Liberal Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) issued a statement agreeing with the goal of Cantor's address.

"Even though we might have different policy prescriptions than Leader Cantor, Democrats agree with the diagnosis that the shrinking middle class and the accessibility of the American dream are our most pressing challenges. If House Republicans can adapt their agenda to match Leader Cantor's words, this Congress could surprise people with how productive it can be," Schumer said.

Cantor’s speech is a part of the GOP’s internal makeover, following November’s devastating election results for the party.

Though Cantor increased his media appearances leading up to the speech — visiting popular political talk shows — the No. 2 ranking House Republican denied that the American people are greatly concerned with the party’s political soul searching.

“The average person is not thinking about and wondering about where the Republican Party is, they’re thinking about trying to make their life work,” Cantor said in response to a question following the speech. “The point of my talk today is to say that we in the House are dedicated to those ends.”

He said that Republicans intend to “follow up with some policy proposals and legislation … to move forward on many of these issues.”

--This report was originally published at 1:11 p.m. and last updated at 8:33 p.m.

More in Blog Briefing Room

King: Sydney calls for 'heavy surveillance'

Read more »