By Dan Roem
Special to the Rappahannock News
The congressional race in the 7th District of Virginia is inherently as much about national issues as it is about local ones if for no other reason than the high-ranking position in Congress held by the incumbent.
Rep. Eric Cantor, the Republican Party’s minority whip in the House of Representatives, counts the votes in the lead-up to floor fights on major legislation. He is running against Democratic Party candidate Rick Waugh and Tea Party candidate Floyd Bayne in the Nov. 2 election.
Bayne and Waugh have debated. Cantor has not, citing scheduling conflicts.
However, Cantor released a string of public statements during the last month arguing the case for a GOP takeover of the House. Republicans need to win 39 seats in order to claim a majority. Several national political analysts are pegging the party’s potential net gains to be above 40 while losing few seats in the process.
One idea Cantor touted in an editorial is to end congressional “earmarks,” which are funding projects attached to legislation usually by individual members of Congress. When approved, that direct government spending can pay for anything from transportation to studying the DNA of bears, as Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) often said on the presidential campaign trail in 2008.
Waugh claimed that earmarks can be useful for road improvements while Cantor wrote that earmarks “have become the poster child for Washington’s wasteful spending binges.”
Regarding targeted government spending, Waugh said that more broadband connections are needed in the Town of Gordonsville and Madison County and that cell phone service is inadequate in many places like Rappahannock and Page counties.
Candidate: Eric Cantor, incumbent
Experience: 10 years in Congress; House minority whip; member of the House Ways and Means Committee; appointed head of Republican Economic Solutions Group; former state House of Delegates member (R-73rd)
Web site: www.ericcantor.com
Candidate: Rick Waugh
Experience: Social worker, therapist, volunteer organizer for Barack Obama 2008
Web site: www.rickwaugh.com
Candidate: Floyd Bayne
Party: Independent Green (Tea Party)
Experience: Supermarket employee, Civil War re-enactor, hockey referee, businessman
Web site: www.floydbayne.com
“It’s absolutely ridiculous that you can go to a county and not be able to have access to your boss, to have access to your work, to have access to anything unless you use a land line,” said Waugh. He said federal stimulus money, something Cantor voted against, could be used to expand broadband access.
Bayne’s opposition to Cantor comes from the incumbent being insufficiently conservative in Bayne’s view. The challenger’s Web site cites Cantor’s votes for the Trouble Assets Relief Program, No Child Left Behind, the Patriot Act, the Real ID law and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act as instances where Cantor strayed from the concept of limited government.
“[Cantor] is a career politician and he suddenly became concerned with fiscal responsibility when the Democrats took control of Congress. But under Bush, he had no problem spending money and growing the deficit as long as the Republican Party said it was O.K.,” said Bayne last week on NBC.
He and Cantor do agree in their joint opposition to the health care reform bill signed into law this year. Cantor joined 215 other House members in voting against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Waugh said he would have voted for it. Cantor said three times during the House floor debate in March that “this trillion dollar overhaul will do the opposite” of something he deemed positive.
“We believe that this government must stop spending money that it doesn’t have,” said Cantor in his prepared speech.
Waugh said that in talking with district residents, the aspect of the health care bill that brought out the most opposition came from the coverage mandates. He said the GOP does not have a better, competing plan though.
“Eric Cantor’s view of health care is that if you don’t have insurance, and you can’t afford it, you die if you get sick,” said Waugh.
Waugh’s remarks echo those made last year on the floor of the House by Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla). A YouTube video shows Grayson’s floor speech during which he said, “If you get sick, America, the Republican health care plan is this: die quickly. That’s right. The Republicans want you to die quickly if you get sick.”
Cantor’s public opposition to the health care reform law passed by Congress centers around its associated cost, taxes and mandates. He previously mentioned during interviews that the preexisting conditions ban and allowing those who lose their jobs to not “necessarily” lose their health care are general areas of agreement between Republicans between and Democrats. Waugh said those items, which were included in the bill Cantor voted against, are why he supports the law.
“After looking at the bill, I would vote for it because it saves peoples lives. If I voted against it, I would be voting against children born with preexisting conditions,” said Waugh.
He added that the Republican leadership “that includes Cantor has said that they don’t want their tax dollars to have everybody get health care… My argument to that is that, yeah, your tax dollars are going to help folks.”
Waugh specifically cited hospitals receiving government payments for treating those without insurance during emergency room visits.
Earlier this month on PBS, Cantor said that “Right now, the ability for insurance companies to deny preexisting, existing coverage shouldn’t be tolerated.”
Cantor then touted the existence of a GOP plan he said would tackle such an issue.
“And we had an answer for that in the Republican proposal because we say you should begin to form and adequately fund universal access programs at the state level, and then provide a cap as to what the premiums should be in those programs, so no one is left without coverage,” said Cantor.