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Sparks Fly During Cantor-Hoyer Colloquy

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) take to the floor at the end of each week to discuss the coming Congressional calendar. But today, the normally staid affair became contentious as the two went after each other over the payroll tax cut, Social Security and the Republicans’ economic agenda.

After the schedule was set, the colloquy over the status of the payroll tax cut conference quickly devolved into a broader discussion over how to pay for tax cuts, roping in the debate over the payroll tax holiday with the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, with both men getting increasingly testy.

In the unusually personal back-and-forth, Cantor accused Hoyer of playing “gotcha games,” Hoyer accused Cantor of a “disturbing habit” of putting words in his mouth and the whole thing ended when Cantor bluntly asked whether Hoyer had “any more scheduling questions,” emphasizing the point by repeating the words “scheduling questions.”

At one point during a discussion of how to pay for the payroll tax cut extension, Hoyer embraced the message of a television advertisement that ran during the Super Bowl. “As Clint Eastwood walked down that road, as we saw during the Super Bowl, he said at half time, ‘We can do better.’” Hoyer added, “That’s what I’m saying to my friend.”

Cantor replied that “the gentleman’s attempt to divide this country saying that some benefit from this and others benefit from that. That’s not the way, I think, most Americans look at it. We’re all in this together.” He then suggested Hoyer wanted to “raid the Social Security trust fund.”

“The gentleman has a habit that frankly disturbs me. I will tell my friend, I didn’t say that at all,” Hoyer said. He insisted he wanted pay for the payroll tax cut extension, he just didn’t want to pay for it “out of the hide of average working people.”

Hoyer then proceeded to mockingly ask Cantor whether he was concerned about the length — more than 1,000 pages — of the GOP’s infrastructure and energy bill, referring to Republican complaints about the length of major Democratic bills such as the president’s health care law.

“Is the gentleman concerned by the length of that bill?” Hoyer asked.

Cantor laughed and said, “Maybe the gentleman is confusing this majority [with which] he was a leader in,” pointing to the committees that considered the infrastructure bill. Then Cantor twisted the knife, recalling that Democrats released a major climate change cap-and-trade bill at 2 a.m. the day of the 10 a.m. vote.

On the health care law, Cantor said, “The public doesn’t like that bill. Right? It doesn’t.” And he needled Hoyer on a reform bill that passed the House just today, “I’ll just point out the fact that when he was the Majority Leader, that bill, the STOCK Act, had sat dormant, and he refused … to pick up the bill and bring it to the floor.”

Hoyer pointed to criticisms of the infrastructure bill by former Rep. Ray LaHood (R-Ill.), who is now President Barack Obama’s Transportation secretary, as well as polls showing support slipping for Congressional Republicans.

For the record, the House will meet Monday in a pro forma session.

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