Cantor chides Obama on eve of meeting

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) on Tuesday accused President Obama of seeking an inappropriate “quid pro quo” between private business and his administration. 

Cantor said the president implied during an address Monday at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that businesses should thank the White House for recent actions on taxes and trade by investing in the economy. 

{mosads}“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,” Cantor said. 

Cantor’s accusation came one day before he was scheduled to meet the president at the White House, along with Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and GOP Whip Kevin McCarthy (Calif.). 

In his speech to the Chamber, the president said that just as the government has a responsibility to encourage private-sector growth, “businesses also have a responsibility to America.” 

Obama specifically urged companies to “invest in America” — to the tune of $2 trillion — and boost hiring. The president referenced his administration’s support for cutting corporate taxes and enacting trade agreements the business community has advocated. 

“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,” Cantor said. 

“Washington doesn’t just wave a magic wand and necessarily business creates jobs,” Cantor said. “That’s not how it works. That’s the whole point here.” 

Cantor said he planned to ask Obama about the Chamber speech during the lunch meeting. 

“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. 

Cantor and Obama have never had a particularly warm relationship. When GOP leaders pushed for more tax cuts in the stimulus package shortly after Obama took office in 2009, the president offered a pointed reminder to Cantor about who was setting the agenda, saying, “I won.”

The leaders are 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 might be added because the majority will allow open 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. 

While Obama and Republicans have spoken of wanting — and needing — to work together, both sides have hardened their positions on spending and regulation since the president’s State of the Union address as they gird for battles over short-term spending, the 2012 budget and the debt ceiling. Obama has backed a spending freeze and longer-term cuts to reduce the deficit but has warned that steep immediate cuts would hinder the fragile economic recovery. 

Despite his broadsides on the Chamber address, Cantor passed on a chance to criticize Obama for his handling of the situation in Egypt. 

The president “has had a tough enough time as it is” without hearing criticism from every member of Congress on the issue, Cantor said.

Tags Boehner Eric Cantor John Boehner

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