Washington Prowler

Boehner’s Rival

Eric Cantor wants more. Plus: Obama's $50 get-out-the-vote-billion.

By 9.7.10

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CANTOR WON'T
Public Policy Polling might be a Democratic-centric firm, but that doesn't mean that Republicans can't use the data for their own interests. That's why staffers and outside supporters for Reps. Eric Cantor and Kevin McCarthy, who have a new book coming out shortly that criticizes past and current GOP leadership, were over the Labor Day holiday weekend sharing PPP's Ohio poll, which showed that only 28% of John Boehner's home-state voters supported a promotion for him to Speaker of the House should the GOP win a majority later this year.

"Change doesn't have to be limited to tossing out the Democrats," said one Cantor supporter who called to push the poll numbers.

"Six months ago, as the tide really started to shift for Democrats in the House, you sensed that Cantor was happy just to ride along and become majority leader," says a House Republican leadership aide. "But as the months have passed, you've sensed that maybe he thinks he's ready for the big job."

Cantor and McCarthy, who serves as Cantor's deputy whip, have recruited a strong class of conservative and electable candidates for the 2010 cycle, and deserve credit for it, says the leadership aide. That group, which may number as many as 45 or perhaps even more depending on voter sentiment in two months, might serve as the core group to push a Cantor for Speaker campaign.

STIMULUS DESPERATION
Wall Street investment analysts and economists were scratching their heads yesterday over the Obama Administration's announced
new plan for what it called a "front loaded" $50 billion stimulus that would focus on U.S. infrastructure. The White House claimed the billions -- which could exceed more than $100 billion in new deficit spending -- would be spent to rebuild or repair 150,000 miles of roads, railways, 150 miles of airport runways, and to purchase a new air-traffic control system.

"I thought that that was what the trillion dollar stimulus funding was supposed to do back in 2009," said an economist working for Citibank. "If they are looking for a name for this one, I'd suggest 'Obama's Last Gasp to Keep Labor Voting Democratic in November.'"

Indeed, according to White House aides and staffers at the Departments of Transportation and Labor familiar with the conversations, a great deal of the funding would end up in the pockets of firms that use organized labor. "I wouldn't say it's a majority necessarily, but if the plan works the way we hope it will, new jobs would be created and many of those jobs would be union jobs."

A White House source says that leading up to the Labor Day holiday announcement, the administration held extensive talks with the Laborers' International Union of North America (LIUNA), which had spent millions this spring on pushing a new highway-construction bill, as well as several railroad unions, including the Teamsters-backed Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees, which represents railroad construction workers, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, and the Sheet Metal Workers International Association , among others. Also advising the White House on the plan: the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), which has been pushing for the new air-traffic system for years.

"This is essentially the same approach the Obama Administration used in the $800-plus billion stimulus plan that hasn't worked," says a New York-based Goldman Sachs analyst for sectors of the transportation industry. "'Front-loaded' is just another way of saying 'shovel ready.' I wonder how many reporters are going to bother to ask the White House how much of the previous hundreds of billions that were appropriated for stimulus haven't been spent."

Reports on unspent stimulus funds have varied, in part because so much of that funding was budgeted for release in 2011 and 2012. "The Obama Administration is essentially asking taxpayers to front them another $50 billion to fund projects today that the government budgeted for a year or two from now," says the Goldman analyst.

In providing background briefings to reporters on Saturday and Sunday, White House staff insisted that the $50 billion proposal was not a "stimulus plan," but a "jobs bill." But Wall Street analysts said that if the White House were serious about creating jobs, there were other proposals sitting on Capitol Hill that would do a better job.

On Monday, the White House also announced a proposal that would allow businesses to deduct 100 percent of investments in new equipment and plant facilities in the first year, the first truly pro-business, private sector growth initiative the White House has proposed. But Wall Street economists point out that a similar so-called "bonus depreciation" proposal -- albeit allowing the write-offs over a longer period of time -- has been stuck on Capitol Hill for months, blocked by Democrats.

"This is a good idea, but no one should give the Obama credit for coming up with it," says the Goldman analyst. "Businesses were able to do this in the Bush Administration, and the tax law was expiring. Business has been trying to get bonus depreciation extended for months and the Obama Administration essentially ignored them."

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