Incoming House Majority Leader Eric Cantor faced off with a skeptical press corps this afternoon, defending the Republican majority's plan to vote on repeal of health care reform even though it has no serious chance of getting through a Democratic-run Senate.
"The Senate will have to consider its position once the House passes the repeal bill," said Cantor, "and senators hear from their constituents."
Cantor was asked whether there would be an open rule on the short repeal bill, the text of which Republicans made public last night. Under an open rule, Democrats would be allowed to propose amendments. Cantor strongly implied that this wouldn't happen. "It's a straightforward document," he said. "It reflect what most people inside the beltway and outside the beltway want."
Several more questions about the strategy for the vote were answered the same way. "This was litigated in the last election," said Cantor. He repeated that a few minutes later: "Most people out there believe that this health care bill has been litigated."
Does it sound like Cantor was on message? He was. Asked whether a push on health care repeal would increase uncertainty about what laws could govern peoples' health care decisions, Cantor suggested that Republicans would have an open debate on what they were replacing the law with. "The imperative is that we put a repeal bill across the floor," said Cantor, "reflecting our willingness to listen to the American people." And he gave the same answer to Slate's John Dickerson, who asked whether Republicans were flipping back the quote President Obama gave to Cantor in January 2009.
"We're not taking that attitude," said Cantor. It was just that Americans wanted repeal, "If you look at the polls."
One thing Republicans have not done as they tee up repeal is provide a score or an economic analysis of how much repeal would cost or save -- Democrats point to their CBO score and say the GOP response would blow up the deficit.
"I think most people understand the CBO did job it was asked to do by the then-Democratic majority," said Cantor, "and it was really apples to oranges. Everybody knows that beyond the 10-year window this has the potential to bankrupt the federal budget and the states."