House Majority Leader Eric Cantor on Tuesday outlined several legislative priorities that bore a striking resemblance to key agenda items President Barack Obama hammered home on the campaign trail.
“Over the next two years, the House Majority will pursue an agenda based on a shared vision of creating the conditions for health, happiness, and prosperity for more Americans and their families. And to restrain Washington from interfering in those pursuits,” Cantor said in remarks prepared for delivery to the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C.
Cantor singled out education, tax reform and health care — the first two of which Obama devoted a significant amount of time to discussing during the election. Though House Republicans and the Obama administration have staked out different approaches, it’s striking to hear both sides lay the same issues out.
“Opportunity and the belief in a better tomorrow start with an education system that works,” Cantor said. “One of our priorities this year will be to move heaven and earth to fix our education system for the most vulnerable.”
Cantor proposed reforming federal education funding so it could “follow” individual children who need it the most and revamping higher education so students and parents faced with rising costs were given breakdowns of unemployment and potential earnings by major.
“Students would actually have a better chance of graduating within four years and getting a job,” Cantor said.
Cantor noted that approximately 40,000 foreign nationals graduate from American colleges or universities with master’s degrees or Ph.D.s and are subsequently forced to leave the country due to immigration rules — an issue Obama highlighted last week when rolling out his vision for immigration.
“Rather than being able to invent things here in America, grow businesses or start one on their own, they do all of those things somewhere else,” Cantor said.
Cantor said any tax reform must “reflect the priorities of working families and the future they’re trying to shape for their kids.”
In a line that could almost have been delivered by Obama himself, Cantor added: “Loopholes and gimmicks benefiting those who’ve come to know how to work the system in Washington, are no more defensible than the path of wasteful and irresponsible spending we’ve been on for decades. Working families should come first. Everyone agrees a fairer, simpler tax code would give us all more time.”
Nevertheless, Obama has indicated — most recently in an interview with CBS News on Sunday — that eliminating any loopholes must be paired with more tax revenue.
Health care is an issue where Obama and House Republicans remain far apart.
“President Obama’s health care law resulted in higher premiums and costs for families, and has made access to quality health care and innovation tougher,” Cantor said. “Obamacare has unnecessarily raised the costs of our health care. Even those who have preexisting conditions could get the coverage they need without a trillion-dollar government program costing us all more.”
House Speaker John Boehner said last month he was finished negotiating with Obama one-on-one. Cantor’s priorities leave open the possibility of his taking the helm on at least two major issues with some common ground — or of focusing the GOP’s efforts on where the Republicans and Democrats remain far apart.
In his speech, Cantor called on Obama to lead both sides in fostering compromise on traditionally divisive issues.
“There are some who would rather avoid fixing the problem in order to save this as a political issue,” he said. “I reject this notion and call on the president to help lead us towards a bipartisan solution rather than encourage the common political divisions of the past. ”