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Cantor Seeks Contrasts in 2012 Agenda, May Endorse

BALTIMORE — House Majority Leader Eric Cantor today said Republicans will use a modest agenda focused on tax and budget reform — as well as a potential renewed push to repeal the health care reform law — to draw stark contrasts between themselves and President Barack Obama over the next 10 months.

In an interview at the House GOP’s annual retreat in Baltimore, the Virginia Republican repeatedly hit on the notion that the GOP needs to draw out specific, concrete examples of its differences with Democrats, and will do so despite opposition from Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.).

“My message in the retreat is, ‘We really have to be much better at laying out positions of what we stand for. And that means we have to have messages that reflect that in a very simple way,’” Cantor said.

Much of the discussion at today’s retreat sessions focused on “are you going to continue to lay out specifics, and if so, how much?” Cantor said. “And in a political year, that’s a pretty darn good question.”

“People deserve to see what we stand for. There are things we can do from the House standpoint that sort of set our vision out there,” Cantor said.

The House Majority Leader added that he expects the proposals to meet resistance from Democrats.

“We’re operating under the notion that the White House is not going to cooperate. Nor is Harry Reid’s Senate. So if our assumption is correct on that, they’re going to have to answer on that,” he said.

Aside from a looming payroll tax cut debate, a planned fight over highway and energy policy and the annual spending bills, Cantor said he believes tax reform, regulatory reform and potentially health care will dominate this year’s agenda.

“I’m hopeful that we can see something on tax reform to sort of lay out what we’re for. Again, it goes back to if the president and Harry Reid aren’t going to work with us then we have no option but to go forward and tell the public, ‘This is what we’re for.’”

On health care, Cantor said he believes this year may be ripe for a return to the GOP’s efforts to repeal Obama’s signature legislative accomplishment.

“I could also see us trying to make the case again for the repeal of Obamacare. Most of the people are with us in the country. And you’re going to have the external events of oral arguments in the Supreme Court, you’re going to have at some point the disposition of that case,” he said.

“I think makes it very timely for the public to understand that if Republicans are given the White House and we control Congress we’re going to do everything we can to do away with Obamacare,” he added.

Cantor conceded that Republicans flubbed their initial handling of the payroll tax cut extension but said he hopes the party will avoid repeating those mistakes.

“It’s beyond me how the politics overtook that position. We are the ones advocating for more tax relief … and somehow we came up losing on that one,” he said.

He also dipped his toe into the presidential primary, saying he hopes the race wraps up as soon as possible so Republicans can focus on drawing differences between themselves and Democrats.

“The more we coalesce around a single vision with a nominee, I think the more straightforward the choice is going to be for the electorate. With the issues that need to be decided by this election” having a nominee early would be the best for the country, Cantor said.

Significantly, Cantor said he has not ruled out the possibility of endorsing one of the candidates.

“I would consider endorsement. … I’m not considering it right now necessarily, I could consider it. But I’m not taking it off the table,” he said.

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