Eric Cantor: History's Greatest Monster?

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Sept. 2 2011 10:59 AM

Eric Cantor: History's Greatest Monster?

MoveOn announces a cable buy of yet-undetermined size for this ad, blasting the cuts-for-aid Cantor plan... or at least blasting the idea of it, the heartless version in which Republicans are "holding aid hostage."

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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Cantor's spokesman, Brad Dayspring, dealt with this attack when I talked to him yesterday. "If people want to criticize the idea of offsetting, that’s a policy argument and legit and worthy of discussion," he said." But this whole charge of 'holding funding hostage' and blocking urgent funding is beyond absurd."

Hey, they're getting used to this heat. Cantor has been the "bad cop" of all of these fights since the start of the year; that image got set in marble during the debt limit battle, when Democrats portrayed Cantor as a Tea Party extremist who was blowing up a possible deal. And he was blowing up a deal. But Democrats would do well to remember the history of cuts-for-aid. In 2005, when Katrina relief threatened to cost $200 billion (it fell $78 billion short of that, thankfully), Democrats attacked cuts-for-aid while proposing an alternative: tax hikes-for-aid. They argued, correctly, that it might not make sense to keep passing new tax cuts and rescuing wealthy people from the estate tax if we needed to spend $200 billion on the Gulf states. They could argue that here, now that Republicans have opened the discussion. But after the debt fight they look to be more comfortable with the "Republican hostage taker" meme.

UPDATE: You know who was a key proponent of tax hikes-for-aid? I'll give you one guess.

[Joe] Biden questioned how the Bush administration could finance nearly half a trillion dollars during the next several years for the war in Iraq and for Katrina recovery.
"We have two national emergencies," Biden said. "One relates to our interest in Iraq and the other in the Gulf, and I don't think you can take from one to deal with the other."
"... We're either going to share the cost with everyone, including the wealthiest among us by foregoing the tax cuts for the wealthiest, or we're going to put all the burden on the middle class.... We don't have to go forward with further tax cuts for the wealthy. There's a $70 billion tax cut in this particular budget. Permanently eliminating the estate-tax cut is a trillion dollars over the next 10 years. Maybe we have to forgo those for the time being."

Not a bad idea! Better than a hopeless "Cantor is mean" attack, if you ask me.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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