Former GOP House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia blamed “both sides” for political extremism in Washington, D.C., but pointed to former President Barack Obama‘s 2009 stimulus package as an early example of extreme partisanship in Congress.
“Listen, I don’t doubt for a second that the the level of craziness has increased in Washington over the last few years in both parties, but certainly when we were serving back during the Obama administration, there was plenty of indicators that we had an extreme element on both sides of the aisle,” Cantor said Tuesday morning on CNN.
Former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R) says “If the opposition is going to be about policies that I wouldn’t agree with, I would support Donald Trump” in 2024. pic.twitter.com/2F0fjLlPUn
— The Recount (@therecount) April 20, 2021
Cantor’s remarks come on the heels of comments to the media from John Boehner, an Ohio Republican who served as Speaker of House from 2011 to 2015. Boehner has been promoting his new book On the House, and recently told reporters he decries the “crazy” extremist forces currently driving the Republican Party.
“We’re just not crazy,” Boehner said of himself and other centrist Republicans in an interview with The Washington Post.
He added: “People in the media want to talk about these people being on the right. They’re on—they’re in the crazy column, all right? It’s got nothing to do with being conservative. My God, I have one of the most conservative voting records in Congress before I became speaker and no longer cast my vote typically. And yet, here I was being referred to as the establishment, the centrist. I used to laugh my rear end off that people could call me a centrist squish, the establishment. But I guess when you’re the speaker of the House, you are the establishment.”
Boehner, today, says he is a Republican centrist, but in 2009 The New York Times reported that he escalated partisan action by coalescing House GOP members to not support Obama’s stimulus bill.
There’s some truth to Eric Cantor saying today that Barack Obama was the cause of the GOP becoming more crazy. But it was not because of the Obama stimulus plan, it was Obama’s skin color. A Black President scared the GOP so much they nominated an open white supremacist in Trump https://t.co/9gTSHWOM0H
— (((DeanObeidallah))) (@DeanObeidallah) April 20, 2021
And to Cantor, political “craziness” existed in both parties when the 2009 stimulus bill was drafted and passed. He told CNN: “One of the things that happened early on in the Obama administration was he laid down the gauntlet with his so-called stimulus bill and drew the party line really brightly, which encouraged some of this backlash on the extreme end of the spectrum on our side and his.”
Former GOP House Maj Ldr Eric Cantor on @CNN blames “both sides” for extremism & singles out Obama for pursuing a 1-party ’09 stimulus pkg.
FACT: On Obama’s inauguration night, Cantor was at the dinner of Congress’ GOP leaders where they decided to oppose everything he did.
— Jackie Calmes (@jackiekcalmes) April 20, 2021
Less than a month after Obama’s inauguration, the new administration passed the $787.2 billion recovery plan to steamroll economic relief for Americans. Obama signed the legislation after the House voted 246 to183, with no support from Republicans, and the Senate voted for the package 60 to 38, with only three Republican moderates expressing support, according to Politico.
After the one-party passage of the bill, Cantor expressed an interest in working with Democrats, Politico reported.
“As we near the end of the first 100 days of this administration,” Cantor said to reporters at that time, “I think we can also reflect back and see that the era of bipartisanship we’d hoped for could probably be improved upon, and I believe that’s how we’ve come back from the Easter recess, to say to the president that we do want to work together, that we can actually unite.”
But then Cantor attended a meeting at the White House among himself, Obama, and other House Republican leaders, when Obama noted no Republican had supported his stimulus bill, according to Politico. While Cantor argued that Republican’s ideas were “ignored completely” in drafting the bill, Obama retorted that Boehner, house minority leader at that time, had urged House Republicans to gather in opposition to the bill before they even met to discuss any ideas.
“Right now, given the concerns that we have over the size of this package and all of the spending in this package, we don’t think it’s going to work,” Boehner said on NBC‘s Meet the Press prior to the bill’s passage, according to the Times. “And so if it’s the plan that I see today, put me down in the no column.”
With the backdrop of the Trump administration and the January 6 attacks on the U.S. Capitol, political extremism continues to divide Democrats and the GOP today. In his remarks to CNN on Tuesday, Cantor expressed that he would support Donald Trump, should he disagree with the issues presented by an alternative candidate.
“I would say look at the whole picture…who’s going to be running against Donald Trump, because if the opposition is going to be about policies that I wouldn’t agree with, I would support Donald Trump.”
Newsweek has reached out to Boehner and Cantor for comment but did not receive a reply by publication time.