GOP's Eric Cantor: Three ways we can work with Obama on jobs

Ahead of President Obama's jobs speech, House majority leader Eric Cantor sees places for potential compromise. But he hopes Obama won't try to dictate solutions to the GOP.

Michael Bonfigli/The Christian Science Monitor
House majority leader Eric Cantor speaks to reporters at a Monitor-sponsored lunch for reporters in Washington Thursday.

House majority leader Eric Cantor said Thursday that he’s looking forward to hearing President Obama’s jobs speech tonight and that he’s hopeful Democrats and Republicans can agree on some measures to try and get the economy moving again.

“The American people don’t expect Republicans and Democrats to agree on every issue but given the times we’re in the people who elected us expect us to be able to set aside those differences and work towards finding some commonality,” said Congressman Cantor (R) of Virginia at a lunch sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor.

But Cantor said he also does not want Obama to come to the House of Representatives and say that if the GOP does not adopt the White House’s recommendations whole, than Republicans will be putting party before country.

“I’m hopeful he will respect that we love this country, too,” said Cantor.

An extension of the current payroll tax holiday for the middle class might be one area of common ground. The White House wrangled a time-limited reduction in that tax from 6.2 to 4.2 percent in a tax-cut deal it struck with Republicans last December.

Cantor said that while such a reduction is not the best way to create incentives for employers to add jobs, it does provide tax relief for voters.

“It’s certainly part of the mix as we talk about how to go forward in terms of tax policy over the next four months,” said Cantor.

Cutting employers’ payroll tax contributions might be a better way to grown the economy, according to the House majority leader.

“That’s much more of an incentive for employers to begin to weigh the risk of hiring,” he said.

Infrastructure spending might be a second area where the parties could produce a proposal, though Cantor said he was leery of the idea of creating an infrastructure bank to fund new road and bridge projects. Such a bank would require a large up-front investment by the federal government, and could become a “Fannie [Mae] and Freddie [Mac] for roads and bridges,” said Cantor, referring to the troubled mortgage giants.

Unemployment benefits might be a third area of possible agreement, though it is unclear whether Republicans would go along with Democrats’ desire to continue with the current extension of unemployment benefits, which lengthens the time the jobless are eligible for such aid to 99 weeks.

“We’ve got ideas on how to work in that area, as well,” said Cantor.

Asked whether he agreed with GOP presidential hopeful and Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s description of Social Security as a “monstrous lie,” Cantor sidestepped a bit, saying “I think the point the governor is trying to make is the math doesn’t lie and the numbers don’t add up.... I agree we’ve got to do something to address the problem of Social Security.”

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