WASHINGTON, April 26, 2014 — Ray Davies, lyricist for legendary British Invasion band the Kinks, asked the musical question, “Who’ll be the next in line for heartaches, who’ll make the same mistakes I made with you?” Republicans both inside and outside the beltway are asking the same question about who replaces House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, when he finally calls it a day.
Until recently, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor seemed to be the front runner for the position, which will open up if the rumors of Boehner stepping down at the end of the year are correct. Cantor seems to be a model of House Speaker cast in the same mold as Boehner. He has no firm roots in the center or the right; devoid of a discernible political soul, he hops back and forth between the establishment and the Tea Party caucus.
The speculation includes other possibilities. Cantor is on the outs with the sizable Tea Party Caucus in the House. Some of his recent activities have made him a lightning rod for disappointment and criticism. Cantor defied conservative groups to attend a conference hosted by the Main Street Partnership PAC, which has been targeting Tea Party candidates in races where moderate, establishment Republicans are fighting off challenges in party primaries.
For America, a Tea Party-oriented non-profit headed by Brent Bozell, urged Cantor to take a pass on the conference. They told him that attending would “permanently destroy any credibility you have left with conservatives.” Following Cantor’s junket to Amelia Island, Bozell remarked, “It is betrayal. It’s also monumentally stupid.”
Cantor’s spokesman, Douglas Heye defended Cantor’s visit to the retreat.
“This is classic judging a speaker by the audience. We need to present conservative solutions to all audiences, and grow both our grass roots and our majority so we can stop President Obama and Nancy Pelosi’s liberal agenda.”
This is a strange statement, considering that Main Street Partnership’s “partners” are labor unions pouring money into negative ads against Tea party candidates. In the spirit of fighting fire with fire, Cantor himself is the target of a Super PAC called “Virginia Vision Action PAC.” An example of their response is this:
Cantor’s fingerprints are on a variant of the “Dream Act.” He’s worked with Jeff Denham, R-Calif., to promote a scheme to swap citizenship to illegals for military service. Laura Ingraham said on her radio program that Cantor thinks “we should turn our military into an amnesty experimentation program.” A lot of eyebrows were raised in the House and among the rank and file when Cantor, in a speech on the House floor in January, said that “immigration reform could be an economic boon to this country.”
Cantor partnered with one of the most vociferous critics of Tea party conservatives, Maxine Waters, D-Calif., on the flood insurance bill, effecting an end-around House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas. And Cantor is marching in lockstep with Boehner on authorizing the Obama Administration’s use of force proposal in Syria.
“The use of these weapons has to be responded to,” Boehner said. “And only the United States has the capability and capacity to stop Assad and to warn others around the world that this type of behavior is not going to be tolerated.”
Cantor’s choice of colleagues and subordinates speaks volumes about his commitment to the best interests of his party. His ex-chief of staff, Boyd Marcus shunned Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli in the recent Virginia governor’s race, assisting Democrat Terry McAuliffe instead. Marcus said during the campaign, “I’ve never before supported any Democrat, but this election Terry is the clear choice for mainstream conservatives. I am excited to work with him to grow the already-long list of prominent Republican leaders who are supporting his campaign.”
Cantor is also an ally of Democrats when it comes to a policy battle just ahead for the GOP in Congress. In 2012, Cantor teamed up with the Democratic House Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank over conservative Republican protest. Ex-Im was the funding mechanism for the Solyndra green energy loan guarantees, which turned out to be a major boondoggle. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, calls the Export-Import Bank, and whether the party will reject its reauthorization, a “cronyism test” for the Republican Party.
In a National Review op-ed Lee wrote, “The Ex-Im Bank exists to dole out taxpayer-backed loan guarantees to help American exporters. Most of the benefits go to large corporations that are perfectly capable of securing private financing anywhere in the world.”
Cantor has some potential rivals for the speaker’s gavel, the most visible among them, Hensarling. The DC Caller notes that Hensarling, has strong conservative bona fides, once heading the conservative Republican Study Committee and often fighting for conservative reforms. He has also been around long enough – including serving as chairman of the House Republican Conference – to earn the respect of more moderate, “establishment” Republicans.
Former Tea Party Caucus member and current radio host, Rep. Joe Walsh says, “If you are going to replace Boehner, it has to be with someone like Congressman Jeb Hensarling, a conservative who can unite the entire caucus. The other problem with Cantor is, at least you know where Boehner stands on issues. With Cantor, you never know what to believe.”
As events move forward, Cantor’s stock will move up and down, but by all appearances, if he has not already put the final nails in the coffin of his shot at the speakership, he’s at least opened the door wide for a strong challenge from his right flank.