For a moment, Fox News ceased to be a safe-haven for Republicans to say what they want without being questioned. Interviewing House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), Fox News Host Chris Wallace took Cantor and his Republican caucus to task for not trying in earnest to move legislation that has any hope of becoming law.
“Is what you’ve been doing the best way to spend your time when you’re about to go on recess for five full weeks?”
Cantor claims that the reason the economy is still not at full speed is that people don’t believe that their tax dollars are being spent wisely, and so the House is helping by passing bills like the one to limit how much money is spent on government funded conferences, and one that required Congress’ approval on any regulations that would cost over $100 million (which would allow Congress to shut down government even more).
Wallace didn’t let Cantor wriggle away that easily:
“But Congressman, rightly or wrongly, none of these bills that you passed is going to become law. Your own members say that—they’re not going to pass the senate, the president won’t sign them. Let’s talk reality. You haven’t passed the farm bill. You’ve only passed 4 of the 12 appropriations bills you were supposed to pass. We face a government shut down and a debt limit in the fall. Again, is this the best way to spend your time? And an added question, with so much unfinished business, why not stick around instead of taking a 5 week vacation?”
For that last question, the House would not cut into their fundraising time to acknowledge that they had been wasting their time passing 40 (yes, 40 separate votes) to repeal Obamacare, so Cantor ignored that one. For the others, he did offer responses with varying degrees of validity. Cantor argued that they did pass a farm bill. Wallace shot back that they took out food stamps, which had been part of the farm bill for 40 years, and Cantor argued that this was part of Republicans busting up “business as usual” in Washington, because the food stamp program needs to be revamped to take out the free-riders. That does not seem like pressing business worthy of poisoning the farm bill in the middle of a recession, but House Republicans apparently disagreed. Then Cantor offered this tragically hilarious quote:
“We passed a bill that said bureaucrats shouldn’t be allowed to give excessive bonuses right now. People ought to know that their tax payer dollars are being spent wisely. These are the kind of things that can rebuild the confidence long-term, progress in America, growth in the economy is dependent on that.”
Ask someone to list their ten biggest things that undermine their confidence in government and see if excessive bonuses for government employees makes anyone’s list. Or if anyone can recall hearing about a government employee’s bonus. As for the actual effect of the bill, it seems more aimed at making government work less desirable. The idea that that legislation is what’s needed to spur the economy doesn’t make any sense. Appropriations bills, which determine how the government spends its money, can help activate various sectors of the economy.
However, there is a grain of truth in what Cantor is saying: people don’t trust their government, but that has to do with how campaigns are financed, how policy is more and more about politics, and how politicians never give straight answers in interviews.
The last word, however, belongs to Wallace. After outlining how the House has just nine legislative days before the government reaches its debt limit when they come back from recess, President Obama has said he won’t negotiate on raising the debt ceiling, and Republicans have said that they won’t raise the debt ceiling without an equal amount of cuts, Wallace asked this rhetorical question:
“Aren’t we headed for a train wreck?”