Last week, the House passed its version of the economic recovery package, despite unanimous Republican opposition. Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) wrote in an op-ed for Politico that the caucus had a “duty” to reject economic ideas that they believe are unlikely to lead to economic recovery:
We must speak out when we think the president’s party has erred, as when House Democrats added hundreds of billions in unnecessary discretionary spending to the stimulus that will do nothing to create jobs.
Additionally, Cantor claimed that his caucus’s unanimous rejection was a symbol of his party’s unified commitment to “smarter, simpler stimulus.” In reality, it was just carefully orchestrated political theater.
As the Hill reports today, Cantor designed a nuanced opposition strategy that gave centrist House republicans a chance to appear in favor of the Obama recovery package (by first voting in favor of adding discretionary spending to the bill in a failed procedural motion), while still scoring political points with their more conservative Republican leadership (by voting against final passage of the bill):
[Cantor] helped convince about a dozen of his colleagues to reject the Democrats’ bill after appeasing the conservative Republican Study Committee (RSC) and giving some centrists political cover on infrastructure spending, according to Republican lawmakers who requested anonymity. […]
[C]entrist GOP legislators, along with other Republicans representing districts especially hard hit by the economic downturn, said they needed to be on record backing increased funding for infrastructure programs.
Republican leaders responded, embracing a motion-to-recommit measure investing an additional $36 billion in highways and an additional $24 billion in the Army Corps of Engineers construction, while reducing the overall costs of the bill by nearly $104 billion. Most Republican members…voted for the motion to recommit, which failed 159–270.
And now, several moderate Republican members are “hinting” that they will ultimately “vote for the merged House-Senate legislation.” Among the members who are reportedly likely to ultimately support the stimulus package are Reps. Peter King (R-NY), John McHugh (R-NY), Joseph Cao (R-LA), and Jim Gerlach (R-PA).