House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va) scoffed and downplayed the significance of two major health-care related interest groups endorsing Democratic authored legislation.
Calling the decision of AARP -- a senior citizens lobby -- to back health care reform "puzzling," Cantor insisted that it wouldn't affect a single Republicans vote
"I don't think the endorsement of a Washington-based group is going to sway members as much as what they are hearing from their constituents at home," the Virginia Republican told a crowd of reporters. "It is really puzzling as to why the AARP will endorse a bill that the CBO indicates will take almost 500 billion dollars out of Medicare. It is just, to me, something I can't quite understand why they would do that. I suspect that they will get a lot of push back from their members."
The House Minority Whip also teed off a bit on the American Medical Association -- a major doctor advocacy organization -- which also offered its support for reform legislation
"As far as the AMA endorsement is concerned," Cantor said. "I frankly do not think the AMA represents the wishes of the physicians in the communities throughout the ground in this country."
The remarks by the Virginia Republican position both he and the broader Republican Party against two of the most respected names in health care interest group industry. They also provide a reflection of just how far the debate over Democratic-produced reform has evolved. It was, after all, roughly five months ago that the AMA was raising concerns about the direction of health care reform -- in the process spurring critiques from progressive lawmakers and activists.
On Thursday, by contrast, Democratic lawmakers were eagerly touting the dual endorsements as the missing catalyst for passing reform. President Barack Obama, in a surprise trip to the briefing room at the White House, offered thanks to both organizations and urged "Congress to listen to AARP, listen to the AMA, and pass this reform for hundreds of millions of Americans who will benefit from it."
The president's message, in the end, was likely directed to only Democrats on the Hill. Hours later, while briefing reporters, Cantor all but etched in stone the number zero under the Republican vote column for health care legislation.
"We have 177 votes in the House and Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi is still not at 218," he said. "She will get no help from us in passing this gargantuan trillion-dollar overhaul."