Eric Cantor: there is common ground if Obama is ‘serious’


House Majority Leader Eric Cantor today sounded a note of conciliation after President Barack Obama delivered a State of the Union speech on Tuesday, evoking grand themes of social justice and political harmony.

In an interview with National Journal, the Tea Party favorite said common ground could be found on the legislative agenda for the final year of the president’s first term if indeed the president is “serious” in his policy proposals.

Observers have widely predicted that election year politics and the opposition-controlled House of Representatives would bring lawmaking to a stand-still in 2012.

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However recent polls show that public approval of Republican conduct in Congress is very low, 73 percent disapproving of the way they are handling their job in CBS-New York Times poll conducted in December. The president’s approval rating rose 5 percent to 49 percent that month, according to The Hill.

In the National Review interview, Cantor suggested Obama’s views on energy and education left room for cooperation with the GOP.

“We certainly believe that you need a diversified energy future. We are going to be a fossil-fuel economy,” Cantor was quoted as saying. “If that’s what he meant, we want to work with him on that. It’s jobs and it’s an economic future that will bear fruit if we become serious about exploring our resources and allowing them to be explored.”

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Cantor was likewise open to cooperation on vocational training and liberalizing visa requirements for foreign students. “[I]f they are going to study here, we don’t want them going home — we’d rather get them a green card and have them be a productive member of our society.… [I]f he’s serious about it, we want to work with him.”

In another sign of openness, Cantor nodded toward a gesture made by the president during his speech. Debbie Bosanek, the secretary to Berkshire Hathaway chairman Warren Buffett who reportedly pays taxes at a higher rate than her boss, attended the State of the Union address during which the president denounced social inequities in the tax system.

“I care about Warren Buffett’s secretary,” Cantor was quoted by Politico as telling CBS “This Morning.”

“I want her to do well. I want her to do better, just as I think everybody in this country should have an opportunity to achieve and pursue their dreams.”

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