Rep. Cantor's Convenient Interest In "Commonality" With Obama

September 28, 2011 10:00 am ET — Matt Finkelstein

Almost immediately after President Obama unveiled the American Jobs Act in a national address, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) started complaining that the president was calling on Congress to pass the bill in full. Cantor is still fuming over Obama's "all-or-nothing" approach, which yesterday he declared is "not the way Washington works":

Obama's "message — all or nothing, take it or leave it — that's just not the way I think anything works and certainly not the way Washington works," Cantor said during a jobs summit sponsored by the American Action Forum. "We've been there, done that for the last eight months."

"That's not the spirit which I think the people of this country would like to see us go forward," Cantor said of Axelrod's comments.

As Cantor recently explained, he would rather avoid battles on "big things" and focus on "areas in which we have commonality." That might be a nice sentiment, if only Cantor didn't take the exact opposite approach whenever Republicans are the instigators.

For instance, Cantor agreed with Obama about the need to increase the debt limit, characterizing default as a "risk that I'm not willing to take." So what did Cantor do with that "commonality"? He helped the Tea Party pick a fight over "big things" like outsized spending cuts and even a balanced budget amendment.

Another area of agreement between almost everyone not named Ron Paul is disaster relief. Yet, despite his past support for federal aid without strings, Cantor is now leading the charge in Congress to tie necessary funding to unrelated budget cuts — a position even conservative governors and right-wing presidential candidate Herman Cain have rejected.

Cantor is absolutely correct about what Washington has done "for the last eight months" — he's just wrong about why. Meanwhile, his stated interest in areas of agreement now shouldn't be taken as evidence of a sudden conversion to bipartisanship so much as Cantor's disinclination to fight over massively popular progressive policies like infrastructure investments and higher taxes on millionaires.