Is the House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, Republican of Virginia, the next Newt Gingrich? The New York Times seems to think so. While the judgment of the Gray Lady may be suspect whereas who conservative leaders are, some conservatives tend to agree.
Eric Cantor led the Republican opposition to the recently passed Obama stimulus package. Eric Cantor is credited, in part, for the fact that not one House Republican voted for the Obama stimulus package. Most observers also credit House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey for unifying Republicans for crafting a stimulus package filled with pork, light on tax cuts, and without Republican input.
Eric Cantor was also one of the people who recognized that mere opposition would not suffice. An alternative Republican plan was introduced that relied heavily on tax cuts to provide economic stimulus. The Republican alternative was defeated with ease in both the House and Senate, but it is illuminating to review what it would have done for $477 billion, roughly half of the cost of the Obama economic stimulus.
According to a comparison of the “final House” economic stimulus and the Republican alternative, the latter would have:
Provided “Tax relief for 100% of income taxpayers. Minimum average relief would be $500 per year. Most families would see relief closer to $1,500 per year. A married couple will see relief as high as $3,200 a year.
“Tax deduction equal to 20% of their income for those small businesses with 500 or fewer employees.
“Allow employers to offset their current losses against past tax liabilities (net operating loss carry back)”
Eric Cantor’s office was also instrumental in getting out the word about some of the more onerous provisions of the Obama stimulus bill, including much of the pork barrel spending, the down payment on national health care, and some provisions that would tend to overturn Bill Clinton’s reform of welfare.
Many analysts have suggested that while Barack Obama won the fight to pass a stimulus package that contained spending, the Republicans, thanks in part to Eric Cantor, won the war by defining it as an unstimulative, pork laden monstrosity. How much of a long term success the Republicans will enjoy will be determined not only by how much, if any, the economy improves, whether it can be ascribed to the Obama stimulus package, and the shape of future policy disputes with the Obama administration, particularly with health care reform.
If Eric Cantor is to be the Newt Gingrich of the 21st Century, then 2010 should be the 1994 of Obama. Bill Clinton, much as Barack Obama, was swept into power largely over public discontent with a President named Bush and an economic down turn. By the 1994 mid terms, the economic down turn was past, but public discontent had shifted to the Democratic President and the Democratic Congress, mainly because of a failed attempt to nationalize health care, corruption in the Congress, and the air of incompetence in the White House. One can be forgiven for suggesting that there are curious parallels between Clinton 1993 and Obama 2009.
There was one other factor in the smashing Republican victory in 1994. That factor was the Contract with America, a short, easy to understand agenda that the Republicans promised to vote on and try to pass if they were given power. Will Eric Cantor help shape a 2010 Contract with America? The New York Times story does state that Rep. Cantor is talking with Newt Gingrich.
Next year could become an interesting time, in the Chinese sense, for Barack Obama and the Democrats in Congress.
Sources: In Gingrich Mold, a New Voice for G.O.P. Resistance, Adam Nagourney, New York Times, February 14th, 2009
A Comparison of the “Final” Democrat Spending Bill and the House Republican Economic Recovery Plan, Office of the Republican Whip, February 12th, 2009