The Office of the Majority Leader would like to provide the following information in response to a story written by Daniel Stone in Newsweek. The piece talked about Republican Leader Eric Cantor’s support for high speed rail in Richmond in 2009 – after voting against the stimulus. One problem – this wasn’t news or new information. In fact, Leader Cantor addressed it directly in July, 2009 when Vice President Biden traveled to Richmond to rave about how successful the stimulus was.
“Today, Cantor said that his constituents "overwhelmingly" supported the high-speed rail line between Richmond and Washington, DC, but added:
"Despite my heartfelt support for high-speed rail, the merit of this one project does not excuse the thousands of others that do not create jobs."
Further, as the Obama Administration continued spending money that we didn’t have, Leader Cantor made clear that federal spending needed to be prioritized. Despite years of supporting a federal role in high speed rail in Virginia, Leader Cantor said he could no longer support federal funding given America’s fiscal state and that the project could and should be funded by the private sector.
When Mr. Stone contacted our office, we provided a thorough timeline that outlined of the Majority Leader’s position on high speed rail in the context of the stimulus. Literally none of that information ended up in the Newsweek story.
We have attached our original email response to Newsweek below:
The list below shows Eric’s position on high speed rail. Despite supporting high speed rail, Eric didn’t support the stimulus (which opened him up to criticism in Virginia at the time). He maintained that he would have supported rail as a stand-alone project. As deficits continued to worsen and the Obama Administration kept spending, Eric repeatedly said that federal spending simply must be prioritized. That included putting federal dollars for programs that he long supported - like high speed rail in Virginia – on hold. If all elected officials were willing to do the same, the country’s fiscal situation would be a little sunnier.
In addition, I wouldn’t make the mistake of comparing the Reid railway from Vegas to Los Angeles to the Richmond rail. The Vegas rail line was essential $8 billion earmark inserted into the conference report by one member. It quadrupled the amount in the original bill. In the previous year, Leader Reid had earmarked $45 million for the levitation train project — which is in competition with a completely privately funded rail project being built along a similar route. The Richmond rail had bipartisan support throughout the delegation and was a far different animal.
The Washington Post - July 16, 2009:
By taking aim at Cantor, the White House hopes to make an example of Republicans who they say are trying to take both sides on the stimulus issue. Although Cantor has been outspoken in his criticism of the stimulus bill as wasteful and not effective, he recently joined his congressional colleagues in urging Virginia's transportation department to apply for stimulus money for high-speed rail, a pet project of his. Today, Cantor said that his constituents "overwhelmingly" supported the high-speed rail line between Richmond and Washington, DC, but added: "Despite my heartfelt support for high-speed rail, the merit of this one project does not excuse the thousands of others that do not create jobs."
New York Times – February 18, 2010:
One of the Democrats' main targets is Mr. Cantor, who has fought for his share of federal financing to support a high-speed rail project in his home state, Virginia. In an interview on Wednesday, Mr. Cantor argued that he should not have to ''embrace what I thought was a misguided package'' to seek federal money for a project he said, he had been pushing for nine years.
The Daily Progress – February 18, 2010:
Cantor’s press secretary, Brad Dayspring, said it is not hypocritical for Cantor to support a tiny percentage of the stimulus while opposing the overall majority of the package. “Congressman Cantor has been an advocate for high speed rail in Richmond since long before President Obama was elected to the Senate, and he certainly would have supported it as a stand-alone project,” Dayspring wrote in an e-mail. “Yet, despite his heartfelt enthusiasm for the rail, Congressman Cantor voted against the stimulus bill because he knew then what most Americans know now — that it would not create jobs and contained billions in pork projects that we cannot afford. Several good pages in the stimulus bill did not excuse the thousands of bad ones.”
The Culpeper Star-Exponent – February 28, 2010:
“First of all, I never tried to pursue any of the stimulus money. Second of all, it’s so laughable that I had a job fair in Culpeper and Richmond and somehow that’s being a hypocrite. I feel it’s my job right now to help people get back to work in any way I can. I’ve also been accused of being a hypocrite because I’m for high-speed rail — something I’ve been for since the first day I got in office. I can be for a project that creates jobs in this state without being for $860 billion in stimulus money.”
GOP Stakeout – January 25, 2011:
"We are in times that we need to go about shrinking the size of government, getting of rid of everything but absolute priority spending," Cantor acknowledged at a press stakeout Tuesday morning. "I've already come out and said I would be in support of cutting that spending at this time."
The Associated Press – February 8, 2011:
Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor, the second-ranking House Republican, urged the administration to involve the business community in its high-speed rail plans. "I'm not in favor of additional monies that we don't have, to be spent on those projects, and would certainly look for ways to leverage the private sector to get it involved," Cantor said.
Pen and Pad – February 8, 2011:
Q: President Obama wants several billion dollars in new funding for high speed rail and some more. Is that something that you think you could support in any regard?
Mr. Cantor: Dave, I think that this was covered last time, perhaps in this room or maybe at a stakeout. I have already said that we have got to reassess priorities given the dire nature of our fiscal state. We want to start growing the economy again. And I have said now that I am not in favor of additional monies that we don't have to be spent on those projects and would certainly look for ways to leverage the private sector to get it involved as far as that kind of activity is concerned.
The Hill – February 10, 2011:
On Tuesday, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) criticized additional spending on high-speed rail. “We have to reassess priorities given the dire nature of our fiscal state. … And I have said now that I am not in favor of additional monies that we don’t have to be spent on those projects and would certainly look for ways to leverage the private sector to get it involved as far as that kind of activity is concerned,” Cantor said.