A peek into GOP priorities

A PEEK INTO GOP PRIORITIES…. House Minority Whip Eric Cantor’s (R-Va.) office is already slamming the new jobs bill proposed by Democrats, but, to its credit, the Whip’s office is getting specific in its objections.

For example, Cantor pointed to several key provisions favored by Democrats that he considers worthy of criticism, including “extension of unemployment benefits through June of 2010;” “extension of COBRA subsidies through June of 2010;” and “extension of the refundable child tax credit to those with income less than $3,000.”

Now, to be clear, Cantor isn’t questioning the funding within these programs — he hasn’t, in other words, said that there’s waste or abuse in COBRA subsidies — he’s criticizing the funding for the programs themselves.

Dave Weigel was surprised to see Cantor’s admission.

Those are all pretty popular programs, and ones that voters would notice if they suddenly vanished. Attacking this stuff — and implying that a Republican majority would cut off these benefits — is something an opposition party can do, but something very hard to imagine a Republican congressional majority getting away with. See 1995 for evidence.

Matt Yglesias added:

It’s also probably worth trying to remind the potentially demoralized that worse things can happen in the world than disappointment at not-as-progressive-as-I’d-like legislation being signed into law. […]

[On the merits], with unemployment at 10 percent it’s not like we’re talking about handouts to people who are too lazy and shiftless to get a job. Millions of Americans were happily working away, when deteriorating global financial conditions they had no control over and nothing to do with caused them to be laid off. Making sure that they’re still able to get health care and provide shelter for their families and such strikes me as basic fairness.

Right, and to Cantor the spending strikes him as basic “big government.” That safety-net spending is inherently stimulative — people struggling tend to spend unemployment benefits on things like groceries, not stick the money in their 401k — is apparently irrelevant.

It’s a surprisingly helpful preview of what the public could expect if Republicans reclaim the House majority in next year’s midterms. When GOP leaders talk about “cutting spending,” they usually pretty vague. Cantor is offering a reminder of what he and his colleagues will target: the safety net Americans rely on when they’re most vulnerable.