President Obama will hold a jobs summit at the White House tomorrow, pulling together economic experts, lawmakers, and business and labor leaders to talk about ways of spurring unemployment, set against a lingering question: will Democrats push for another stimulus package as the solution?
But House Minority Whip Eric Cantor--who, along with some other critics of the administration, was not invited--is preempting the White House with a conservative counter-initiative of his own today.
Cantor will introduce his "no-cost" jobs plan in a speech at The Heritage Foundation today at 2 p.m. (UPDATE: here's a link to the live webcast on Heritage's Facebook page), laying out some policy priorities as his alternative to whatever Obama and congressional Democrats come up with.
"I would portray it as a laying out of a Republican alternative for a no-cost jobs plan," Cantor said this morning on a conference call with reporters, hosted by the Republican National Committee.
"[J]ob creators are sitting on the sidelines because Washington continues to not only spend money it doesn't have, but frankly continue down a path of promulgating regulations and rules that actually deter investments that could create jobs, so I think overall we're looking to, number one, relieve the harm, and then I'll be talking about some other things that we could implement together in a bipartisan way to get Americans back to work," Cantor said.
It's not the first time Cantor has taken the lead in proposing a GOP alternative to major White House/Democratic policy initiatives: he headed up the House Republicans' counter-proposal to the Democratic stimulus package at the beginning of the year.
On the White House summit, Cantor said: "I certainly hope it's more than a photo op. I mean, all of us want to do anything we can to get Americans back to work. Past history has been, with this White House, that there's been a lot of pomp and ceremony with very little follow through in terms of delivering results."
Cantor seems to be using the same strategy he and other Republicans have since President Obama took office: fashion a set of policy guidelines that scales back the role of government--and is far more fiscally conservative than what Democrats have in mind--and present them as a chunk of common ground that both parties can agree to.
That's how Republicans went about things with their health care counter-proposal and, to some extent, it's the paradigm Cantor brought with him to the GOP stimulus as well, going to the White House multiple times to present the GOP's ideas to President Obama, but ultimately coming away--perhaps as expected--without much of a stake in the final bill.
Cantor, it should be noted, is considered a possible contender for the 2012 GOP nomination, and, while he polls quite low compared to the Big Three 2012ers--Palin, Romney, and Huckabee--it's probably because people around the country haven't heard of him. He wasn't included in the latest Des Moines Register poll of Iowa Republicans' opinion on possible candidates.
If Republican primary voters get tired of their star candidates, things could change for the next tier of contenders, which includes Tim Pawlenty, Newt Gingrich, Cantor, and Bobby Jindal. It's a long way off, and Cantor's name is in the mix.
Regardless of what the future may hold for Cantor, he's taking a lead role in crafting and presenting the Republican policy alternatives to Obama initiatives loathed so fiercely by conservatives, cementing his place at the top of the GOP establishment and adding to his resume the gravitas of economic policy work, plus time in the spotlight as one of its chief GOP purveyors.
UPDATE: Democratic National Committee press secretary Hari Sevugan responds to Cantor's initiative:
"To date, Eric Cantor's 'plan' has been to say 'No' to the President's Recovery Act - which independent validators agree not only saved the economy from the brink of economic crisis but is also providing Americans with hundreds of thousands of jobs - and argue that we should continue with Bush era economic policies. Notwithstanding that Cantor likes to secretly take credit for the jobs created by the Recovery Act in his district, if he had his way, none of those jobs would exist. So, we eagerly look forward to Eric Cantor's new plan to see if it contains any new ideas or simply rehashes more of the same failed ones that got us into this mess to begin with."