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Cantor Markets GOP Health Care Message at Job Fair

CULPEPER, Va. – House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) found unlikely but fertile ground in his backyard Monday to attack the Democratic health care reform bill: a job fair.For the last two weeks, House Republicans have criticized Congressional Democrats and the Obama administration for focusing too heavily on crafting a bill to reform the American health care system while job growth remains stagnant. But as Cantor worked his way through the Daniel Technology Center at Germanna Community College, he was peppered with questions from job seekers and other attendees about the progress and the contents of the health care reform measures in the House and Senate. “I asked him: Are illegal aliens are going to be covered?— job-seeker Fred Gruber told Roll Call. “We are struggling to create a bill to cover more Americans who can’t afford it [health insurance] in the first place, and now we are going to pay for illegal aliens?— Gruber said Cantor explained to him that the bill included “marble-mouthed language— about barring illegal immigrants from accessing a public insurance plan but could ultimately allow them to get government-subsidized health care coverage. The health care bill introduced by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) contains language backed by the White House that explicitly prohibits illegal immigrants from accessing the public exchange — even if they choose to use their own money to buy health insurance. The House-passed bill, though, contains no such prohibitions. Jim Charapich, a member of the Culpeper County Chamber of Commerce, asked Cantor what he thought about the Senate’s vote to proceed with debate on Reid’s version of the health care reform bill. “It is disappointing,— Cantor answered. The Congressman then took the opportunity to reinforce the Republican message that the current reform bills would harm small business, and he encouraged Charapich to keep the business community engaged in opposing the effort to pass health care reform. Both the House and Senate bills would create new taxes on certain health insurance plans as a way to pay for reforms. Republicans have charged that those tax increases will especially hurt small businesses. Jen Curtis, an elementary school principal who also asked Cantor about the health care bill’s progress, said she was watching the debate very carefully and was concerned about the changes that could be made to the health care system as a result. “It’s a change that is going to affect everyone,— she said. Curtis was among the 50 employers who were seeking applicants at Monday’s job fair. Many of the businesses and government agencies that were looking to hire have received funds from the $787 billion economic stimulus package. And while Monday’s job fair differed from the one that Cantor hosted in August in that all of the businesses that attended were actually looking to hire, only about 700 people braved the rain, wind and traffic to make it to the Daniel Technology Center — a far cry from of the nearly 3,500 that came to Cantor’s August job fair near Richmond.Virginia’s unemployment rate has remained statistically unchanged since August, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But with an unemployment rate of 6.6 percent, Virginia’s workers are suffering far less than the nation’s as a whole. The national unemployment rate reached 10.2 percent at the end of October, and only six states were better off than Virginia on the jobs front.Still, Cantor continued to be relentless in his criticism of the $787 billion economic stimulus bill, which lately has been causing Democrats more political headaches than ever before as unemployment continues to rise and the job-creating effects of the stimulus have been openly questioned by government auditors.“I can tell you I voted against the stimulus bill because it has not worked and I didn’t think it would work,— Cantor said. “That bill was chalk full of pork-barrel spending and unnecessary waste.— He added, “We said from the very beginning that any stimulus bill should be focused like a laser on job creation. We know that job creation comes overwhelmingly from the private sector and the small businesses of our community, our state and our country.— Cantor dismissed Democratic criticisms that were made last week about the fact that many of the exhibitors at his job fair had actually benefited from stimulus funds. “I think that you could say that the stimulus has put into motion [the ability for some agencies] in the public sector to be able to refrain from cutting payrolls as much,— he said. “I think much of the stimulus money, when it was allocated to the states, went toward filling budget gaps. … It was staving off tough decisions being made.—

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