In a wide-ranging interview with Yahoo News, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor discussed the next steps Congress could take in the aftermath of this week's Supreme Court decisions on voting rights and same-sex marriage, the future of immigration reform, President Barack Obama's response to National Security Agency document leaker Edward Snowden and his own plan to change the perception of the Republican Party.
Cantor addressed this week's Supreme Court ruling that struck down a key part of the Voting Rights Act, a decision that left Congress with the task of passing an new version of the law. Cantor said he planned to discuss options with Georgia Democratic Rep. John Lewis, a civil rights leader with whom Cantor traveled recently on a pilgrimage to the movement's landmarks in Alabama.
"I look forward to having some discussions," Cantor said. "I intend to talk to John Lewis about his thoughts on this matter. I think that you could probably say for both sides of the political aisle--no matter where you come from regionally--that very sacred right to vote is in the underpinning of this country."
In response to Obama's comments Thursday in which the president won't be "scrambling jets" to bring Snowden back to the United States, Cantor criticized the president for what he called a "flippant" attitude toward a "grave matter."
"I think the president's remark was kind of flippant. I don't think he gives justice to this grave matter that the country's facing," he said, adding later: "I call on the president to reverse that attitude and say we're going to get engaged and we're going to lead."
Cantor also discussed his "Making Life Work" project, a Republican effort to focus on "creating the conditions for health, happiness and prosperity for more Americans and their families."
Five months after he revealed his plan in a speech in Washington, D.C., Cantor's ongoing effort is still a work in progress. House Republicans have passed two bills as part of the "Making Life Work" initiative -- one that would give workers more flexibility in their work schedule and another that would promote job training programs -- but neither have been taken up in the Senate. In April, House leaders pulled a Cantor-backed health care bill from a vote on the floor when it appeared doomed to fail.
Now Cantor is focused on a another health-related bill, which would increase funding for pediatric research through the National Institutes of Health by ending federal funding of political campaigns. While the old GOP might want to use that for deficit reduction, Cantor's vision would call for using it for the research, a move that could put him at odds with some of the more conservative lawmakers in the party.
"If that money can be, instead, put towards medical research in the area of pediatrics, we could perhaps find cures, because it's the only way you can get to a cure if you apply research dollars," he said. "The federal government has always been about providing a catalyst for that."