Cantor says no to an all-or-nothing approach to the president's jobs plan

Few people are enthused about the the president’s jobs plan, as Obama’s low approval and climbing disapproval rates attest, but Republicans have said they’re willing to work with him on some of his proposals. House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, for example, has said his vision and the president’s vision might overlap in the territory of corporate tax reform. That doesn’t mean, however, that House leadership concedes the importance of comprehensively passing the president’s bill with all the urgency Obama has sought to make seem imperative. In fact, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said today on CNBC that Republicans are very unlikely to pass the bill in its entirety.

“I reject the all-or-nothing approach that the president has laid out,” Cantor said Friday on CNBC. “I mean nobody works like that. Washington certainly doesn’t. That creates the conflict. That creates and brings on the rancor. We want to work together, we want to find places that we agree on and not dwell on the big differences.”

Since Obama unveiled his $447 billion American Jobs Act a little more than a week ago he has been strongly urging Congress to swiftly take action to move the legislation into law. The White House has insisted that Obama wants to see all aspects of the bill put into law and, although Obama would prefer to pass his plan as one piece of legislation, he would push to pass the plan in individual parts if need be.

Cantor’s statements underscore how politically calculating the president’s proposal was in the first place. Far from seeking to introduce transcendent, innovative and effective ideas that might actually stand a chance of passage, the president chose instead to reiterate tired ideas he knew Republicans would not support.

After the president submitted his bill, Republicans were left with three options: (1) To pass the bill in its entirety, knowing additional stimulus spending will only add to the debt and fail to create jobs, (2) To pass parts of the bill, knowing the president will take full credit for any economic improvements that resulted and cast blame for any stagnation (“If Republicans had agreed to my plan in its entirety …”) or (3) To flat-out reject the bill, knowing that, absent any action at all, the jobs crisis will continue until November 2012 and the president will blame Republicans for it. Not one of those options is positive for Republicans, politically speaking, but the first option is by far the worst as it would both exacerbate the country’s economic problems and cost Republicans seats in 2012. Conservatives would be disappointed in the spineless leadership of Republicans and independents would be disgusted at a second round of stimulus spending after the first stimulus package proved so abysmally ineffective.

Thankfully, Cantor has rightly rejected that on principle. Between the latter two alternatives, either will be workable for Republicans in 2012. But from now until November, leadership’s real job must be to continue to hammer the solutions that would work, educating as much of the electorate as possible about the merits and necessity of entitlement reform and the ongoing importance of deficit reduction.