House Majority Leader Eric Cantor gave a speech at AEI this afternoon (read the whole thing here), and though it’s been hailed as part of the House GOP’s much-needed, comprehensive reboot, it appears he’s mostly going it alone. Politico reports:
The future of Cantor’s proposals are unclear.
Some on Cantor’s staff said legislation will not be introduced after the speech, others say to expect a push on the House floor, which Cantor controls. Don’t mistake this for a leadership-wide effort: The speech was crafted inside Cantor’s office, with little input from Boehner’s and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy’s offices. It was unveiled at a meeting of top GOP leaders in the past few weeks, several sources said.
The speech resembles other independent attempts by Republican luminaries to claim the philosophical mantle of the post-Romney GOP by offering obvious policy prescriptions on things like school choice, hinting at their own ambitions, and, as Scott Galupo puts it, “soft-focusing the party’s agenda by talking about issues besides the federal budget.”
Various GOP players have emphasized different elements of the mix, but the song remains essentially the same.
Ted Cruz, an imperialist in Rawlsian bifocals who demonstrates his small-government cred by opposing defense cuts and sequestration and then advances his “opportunity conservatism” by voting against hurricane aid, is by far the least consistent. That he’s seen as a rising star is evidence of the institutional momentum of the conservative movement and Cruz’s willingness to say anything to curry favor with the people he wants to impress–what other reason could a freshman senator possibly have for being one of three to vote against John Kerry’s confirmation?
Bobby Jindal’s blunt speech to the Republican National Committee was the most convincing, and his vision is the most likely to win elections. Rod is right that some parts seemed like reheated Reagan boilerplate, like talking about shifting from “managing government and toward the mission of growth,” at a time when most Americans have made their peace with Big Government and the GOP might have more success effectively managing it rather than promising its abolition.
But he also hit all the notes I’d want to see from a re-energized Republican Party, starting with the call to abandon the party’s protection of big business–“we must not be the party that simply protects the well off so they can keep their toys.” Also a commitment to devolution, quixotic and difficult as it might be–“If it’s worth doing, block grant it to the states. If it’s something you don’t trust the states to do, then maybe Washington shouldn’t do it at all. We believe solving problems closer to home should always be our first, not last, option.”
One doesn’t get the impression Jindal is quite ready to admit that Lockheed Martin might also belong in the category of big business, but it’s a start.
As for Cantor, he stuck mostly to familiar GOP priorities like tax reform and school choice, also mentioning immigration and ending the medical device tax. As Justin Green points out, he all but endorsed the DREAM Act in principle. The overall sense was of Cantor trying to put on a more compassionate face, appearing with schoolkids, a nurse, and relating a story of a child with cancer his family got to know in Richmond. He also mentioned his brief jaunt to a Petworth school yesterday, observing first-hand the success of DC’s Opportunity Scholarship Program. Insofar as his speech indicates a commitment to govern in ways beyond fighting over the budget, it’s good news, not to mention politically necessary, especially since the GOP has the upper hand on school choice.