Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Mr. Cantor: Welcome back. Thanks for being here.
Last time we were in this room, we talked about the overall theme for this Congress which is cut-and-grow, that we are going to cut spending, cut the anti business regulation in this town, and begin to grow this economy again. Towards that end, we have just come out of our retreat, the Republican Conference in Baltimore, laser focused on those two issues of cutting spending, cutting the reach and size of Washington and focusing on how we can grow the economy again.
This week, as you know, we will begin today to debate and then tomorrow will vote on repealing ObamaCare, and we look forward to the passage of that vote. At the same time, we will look to instruct our committees and ask them to begin deliberations on replacing this health care law with the kind of alternatives that, Americans really want, which is a bill and a solution that starts with lowering costs, increasing access, and promoting the doctor patient relationship as far as health care in this country is concerned.
The reality is, the ObamaCare bill did not lower costs. It will cost small business people money. It will, in many cases, preclude the hiring of people. And if you're in a situation where that's not the case and don't accept that, then you are certainly assuming that more people are going to fall into a government controlled health care system which is going to add to the debt, which obviously is something that we are very focused on trying to reduce.
This week, and I know today, we did hear the President, and we read in The Wall Street Journal, his op ed regarding regulation, regarding now his interest in trying to focus on the damage that the regulatory agencies and his Administration have committed as far as job creation is concerned. Certainly I welcome the spirit of his op ed.
As you may recall, last December of 2009, I presented, along with then Leader Boehner, a document called the “No Cost Jobs Plan” that the economic recovery working group that I chaired last Congress had come up with that essentially said that we want to tear down the self imposed regulations that are impeding job growth in this country.
Some of that was very much embraced along the way by this President in some of his rhetoric. He's talked about promoting the trade agenda. He's talked about rolling back barriers to job creation all within this plan. That's why today, I have relaunched the “No Cost Jobs Plan” to try and insist that we remain focused on the oversight of the agencies and convincing them, through our oversight process, that it is best for job creation that we not just review the regulations that the President is advocating, but actually rewrite them.
We have, all along, insisted on a cost benefit analysis. The Administration says that they are engaging in that analysis when they promulgate these regulations. The fact of the matter is that in many cases, it seems that analysis is being ignored, resulting in a real impediment to job creation.
Now, continuing along the goal of trying to focus on cut and grow, there's been a lot of discussion obviously around spending, and specifically around the debt limit. From a perspective of how these will be viewed in terms of votes, clearly the debt limit vote is something that deals with the mistakes of the past. The CR vote, the actual spending bill itself, is a test for: Are we going to do the right thing today? And then our budget that we will bring to the floor at the direction of the chairman, Paul Ryan, will be how we view the future of this country and how we will deal with that.
Make no mistake about it, we are going to cut spending. And the debt limit, really, that vote provides us an opportunity to impose the kind of spending cuts that we were sent here to do and to perform, as well as to affect the real reform in terms of the spending and budget process that we need in order to deliver on our promise that we are changing the way that Washington works. That's the way that we are viewing this debt limit vote, and we are simply not going to accept an increase in the debt limit without serious cuts and reforms. If our votes are needed, which I assume the President thinks they are, there will be action to ensure the people that elected us that Washington's spending binge is over.
Lastly, I will speak about the State of the Union. While I don't know yet who I will be sitting next to, I do know that I am going to be in the Chamber listening to the President, wanting to hear from him specifics as far as his desire to work with us on spending cuts and reforms. As I have said before, I am hopeful that the President is serious when he says we need to end earmarks, and that perhaps he can call up Harry Reid and insist that the Senate follow suit with what the House has already done as far as banning earmarks.
I also really want to hear the President's proposals on tax reform, because if we're going to grow this economy, that is a necessary piece in order for us to maintain our competitiveness and to grow jobs in this country. Lastly, this Congress, is a cut and grow Congress. It is also going to be a Congress that is going to be results driven. We believe that we can only achieve results if we can work together. So I am hopeful we will hear that spirit coming from the President.
And with that, I'm delighted to answer some questions.
Q: When you say you're not going to accept a debt ceiling hike without spending cuts, can you detail a little bit the mechanisms for doing that? You are open to flat out rejecting a debt ceiling increase?
Mr. Cantor: What we have said all along and over the last several days for sure, is that the debt limit vote provides an opportunity for us to deliver on the commitment of reform. The President is going to need our vote on that. But we need to see serious spending cuts and reforms in order for the American people to accept that we need to continue to increase the debt limit. In other words, they need some assurances that things are going to change and the spending binge is over.
Q: Mr. Leader, how serious do you view the statutory spending gaps as a likely part of something, a bargain for a debt ceiling increase?
Mr. Cantor: There has been a lot of discussion about spending caps in terms of options for us to impose some discipline to make sure that we don't commit the errors of the past. I am sure that the Budget Committee, led by Paul Ryan, will be discussing that, debating that, having hearings on it as well, and I expect there to be more discussion on that.
Q: You said the President's going to need your vote on the debt limit. Is that how you're viewing it? Does the President need your vote? Or does the country and do the markets need your vote? I mean, is not raising it an option if you don't get what you want?
Mr. Cantor: There are serious consequences to the vote on the debt limit on either side. One thing that I know for sure is, we're going to be about cutting spending; we're going to be about reforming the budget process, the spending process once and for all in this country. And the President is the Commander in Chief. He is obviously interested in making sure that this government continues to provide the functions that it provides for this country. We certainly join him in that respect.
I think he has demonstrated that he gets the message coming from the last election, and we have got to get serious. The debt limit vote gives us an opportunity to reflect the will of the voters who spoke out on in November. We have got to change the way this place works.
Q: Mr. Leader, how do you see the health care repeal effort playing out? The House will pass it. The Senate will stop it. What changes do you see in the health law becoming a reality?
Mr. Cantor: Well, first of all, I don't necessarily accept the fact that if Harry Reid is so confident that the repeal vote should die in the Senate, then he should bring it up for a vote, if he's so confident he's got the votes. In the meantime, depending on how that body works, we are going to go about passing the repeal bill tomorrow, and our committees will be asked to begin deliberations on the alternative, as to how we can construct a way forward that rejects the status quo but that doesn't get us into the kind of position that this health care bill, supported by the President, is forcing us into if we don't stop it.
Q: Mr. Leader, do you have a timeline on that? Do you want to try to get this back on to the floor in the next couple of weeks or
Mr. Cantor: Well, obviously committees are not all organized right now. And, you know, the Speaker has insisted, and I am in full agreement with him that we are going to have an open process on the efforts to shape an alternative, replacement bill. Obviously, the committees need to get up and running before the debate begins. But there are several committees of jurisdiction and we will be looking to those committees. Dave Camp on the Ways and Means Committee, Chairman Kline on the Education & the Workforce Committee, and Chairman Upton on the Energy and Commerce Committee, being the three major committees, to go about their work and to emphasize, number one, the doctor patient relationship. You know, the whole construct of the ObamaCare bill is what the people reject; and that is, the government insistence that you must purchase coverage according to what Washington thinks is best and not what a doctor patient relationship would dictate or anyone's choice as to what's best for their family.
Q: Mr. Leader, if you get some Democrats to vote tomorrow on the health care repeal, what kind of dynamic does that give you in terms of going into the Senate? Are there other Democrats, vulnerable Democrats in the Senate that might revisit this issue? And perhaps you will have some sort of other you talked about playing it out. How could you see a scenario playing it out where it won't be sort of dead on arrival going into the Senate?
Mr. Cantor: Again, I think that the underlying sense of the ObamaCare bill is one that Washington knows best. That sense was rejected in November. It was litigated fully throughout the last Congress and certainly leading up to the election. If Harry Reid is so confident that the Members of that body are where he is, then let's see a vote in that body.
Q: Mr. Leader, do you have a bottom line on the debt ceiling vote for the amount of spending you want to see cut? And will that process be an open process?
Mr. Cantor: Well, we have said all along in our Pledge to America that Republicans are going to return spending to '08 levels. And certainly, you will see that occur in that vote to ask our Appropriations Committee to recommend how we get there as quickly as possible to occur very shortly. Beyond that, we need to demonstrate that it's not just this year that we're talking about; that we are talking about reining in spending going on for the next year and the next as well as trying to impose spending reforms so that we don't continue the kind of ways of Washington that we have seen.
Q: Mr. Leader, you say going to back to the '08 levels, you don't see that in the cuts in terms of the proposals that are dumped in front of the debt limit vote? That is not going to get them back to the '08 limits there in that particular set of...?
Mr. Cantor: Chad, we are operating not in control of the government, for sure. We are a majority in the House. We need to make sure that we're producing results and that is, bringing down spending levels. The House is going to put some markers down. We're going to insist that spending return to '08 levels so that we can then begin the discussion of how we can avoid a spending binge from reoccurring.
Q: Mr. Leader, last week Mr. Gohmert said that he will introduce legislation for Members of Congress to bring firearms into the Capitol. I am wondering if you could support that and if you think the House could vote on it - to allow Members of Congress to bring guns into the Capitol.
Mr. Cantor: I was not aware that Mr. Gohmert had suggested that. And because of that, having not spoken to him, I can get back to you on that. I do think that obviously we would yield certainly in this body to the advice of law enforcement, Capitol Police, Sergeant at Arms, that are tasked with protecting us here in this building.
Q: Mr. Leader, how committed will House Republicans be in defunding the bill piece by piece in the coming months?
Mr. Cantor: Robert, we are going to be about trying to deliver on our commitment, to make sure that the ObamaCare bill does not take full hold and effect. We believe very strongly that this is a bill whose numbers don't quite jive and that's because of the gimmickry inherent in the writing of the bill itself, not having anything to do with the analysis given by CBO but, frankly, in the bill's writing itself. So we believe that it is an unsustainable open ended entitlement that could very well bankrupt this country and the States, given their Medicaid role to play under the bill. So if we are unsuccessful in seeing the Senate take up the repeal bill and the President signing a repeal bill of ObamaCare, we'll do everything we can to delay and defund the provisions of the bill so that we can get some discussion going on how we can replace it, and come together on the agreement that we can't accept the status quo.
Q: Mr. Leader, are you saying that the Republicans in the House will vote against raising the debt ceiling, that that's a realistic possibility?
Mr. Cantor: I didn't say that. I'm not going to opine one way or the other. All I said was, this is a serious vote and there are serious consequences on both sides of the vote. What we need to do and are committed to doing is making sure that we achieve spending cuts and effect real reform so that the spending binge ends. We look at the debt limit vote as an opportunity for us to accomplish those goals.
Q: Mr. Leader, the Democrats have been focusing on the parts of the health care bill that have been implemented, the effects of repealing them, one of them is that checks have already gone out to seniors, $250 and a couple of other items like that. You know, do you guys envision seniors having to repay the government that money if repeal were to go through?
Mr. Cantor: No. No.
Q: How would you address that then?
Mr. Cantor: These checks were received under existing law now. If a repeal bill passes and there's any uncertainty as to whether those checks would have to be recaptured, we can speak to that then. But no, the intention is not to require seniors to return the $250 checks that they received under the operation of the law. Yes?
Q: In terms of defunding the law, will you use the CR, the expiring CR to begin that process? Would there be language that the health care law will not be funded, or piecemeal going after it in some way?
Mr. Cantor: What we intend on the CR, again, is to begin to demonstrate our commitment that we return discretionary nondefense spending levels back to '08 levels, and that will be the focus of the CR.
Q: Mr. Leader, I'm sorry. Does that mean you won't use that to begin
Mr. Cantor: All I am saying is the focus of the CR is on the spending levels inherent in that bill, and the spending levels are the focus and that is to return to '08 levels.
Q: Do you accept the administration's timeline for raising the debt ceiling? They said, I think, the end of March to the middle of May. And what is your timeline to bring a bill to the floor?
Mr. Cantor: Actually, we are looking into exactly what is available for the Treasury Department to continue to operate. Obviously, we will be in discussions with the administration as far as the time, the sense, and the urgency of that vote. And that's all I can say right now.
Q: Mr. Leader, back to the health care debate. What kind of advice or counsel have Republicans received about going forward in the debate and the tone of the debate? Have you told or has the leadership told rank and file Members not to use any certain words? For example, we saw over the weekend that the "job killing bill" is now the "job destroying bill." Is that the kind of language you are encouraging?
Mr. Cantor: This is about the health policy. This is about a policy oriented debate. Obviously, there are strong feelings on both sides of the bill. And, you know, we expect the debate to ensue along policy lines. And there are going to be some policy differences. But all along, you know, the Speaker and I have continued to say, this is a Congress that's going to be focused on delivering results. This is going to be a Congress that is focused on policy, and affecting the kinds of reforms that the American people want. Active discourse is just a piece of that. But for sure, we have continued to say, we are going to be about a decency here and engage and promote active debate on policy.
Q: Mr. Leader, what's your response to an HHS report released today that said as many as 129 million Americans with pre existing medical conditions could lose coverage if repeal happens?
Mr. Cantor: Well, that's where the replacement effort really becomes imperative. You know, again, we just look at the ObamaCare bill as being, in the whole construct, something that's unsustainable. You've got an open ended entitlement. You've got something that already has demonstrated to increase premium costs for families and small businesses and large. You are quickly facing a situation where the health care that people know will disappear if this bill is allowed to come into effect. As you know, the Republican alternative from last Congress had in its proposals to put into place universal access programs, high risk pools that dealt with the question of denial of coverage of pre existing conditions, and we felt dealt with it in a way that actually won't increase costs for everyone. So, you know, let's just say this: Republicans care about health care. You know, we want to do it in a way that lowers costs, that increases access, and emphasizes the doctor patient relationship. And none of which do we feel that the ObamaCare bill does.
Q: Mr. Leader, to follow up, you talked about the laser focus of your retreat being on cutting rope. Can you give some specific examples of the spending cuts that we are going to hear from House Republicans?
Mr. Cantor: What you will hear is, first of all, what we have been saying all along about returning spending cuts to '08 levels. And we will be asking the Appropriations Committee, in concert with the Budget Committee, to make sure that that is affected and implemented. The specifics will come from the Appropriations Committee. We will also be asking our committees to look for the savings that we can achieve through our oversight process. The specifics will come from the committees of jurisdiction and the different agencies. There are some macro tools available, such as the spending caps. There are just across the board suggestions that we are entertaining, and there are really specific cuts to sort of help supplement some of those ideas. So everything is on the table. We are serious about effecting spending reform in this town.
Q: In terms of tomorrow, I think tomorrow Rules is going to unveil a resolution to this issue as sort of the marker. Will that have at least a number saying, cut X, Y, Z total dollar value and report back to us at such and such time?
Mr. Cantor: Right. The Rules Committee will be putting out a rule which will call for the debate and the vote next week of a resolution instructing the Appropriations Committee to deliver on our promise of reducing nondefense discretionary spending to '08 levels. And that is the essence of, I believe, what the Rules Committee will produce tomorrow. And we will then look to the Appropriations Committee in conjunction with the Budget Committee to deliver on that commitment, and do so in a timely manner.
Q: Mr. Leader, on health care reform, do you have a sense of how much you can actually defund it? Because the CBO says about $100 billion is must be appropriated still and most of which is existing programs. So is that bad news for, you know, Republicans who say they want to defund the bill?
Mr. Cantor: I am not sure what you're asking.
Q: How much can they actually chip away? How much can Republicans actually chip away at the health care reform law?
Mr. Cantor: Well, certainly there are billions, if not tens of billions of dollars, connected with the implementation of the rulemaking process under the ObamaCare bill. That is something we will be looking at. And, you know, we will be continuing to look at, what are the impacts of the regulations coming out in terms of job creation? What are the impacts in terms of the kind of health care that people want? I mean, we just fundamentally disagree with the construct of the bill. That was reflected in the wholly partisan vote that occurred around that bill. And we're serious about trying to change the status quo, but do it in a way that produces health care that people would actually want in this country.
Q: Just to follow up on Paul's question. On the resolution coming from Rules regarding the '08 levels, I thought the rules package passed earlier allowed Chairman Ryan to go ahead and put those rules just simply into the record. So I am just wondering why there is a need for a vote, or if that is in reaction to Democratic complaints about the rules package. Am I missing something there?
Mr. Cantor: No. The rules package had to be what it was to empower the chairman of the Budget Committee because of the fact there was no budget under which we were operating in the past. So we needed some way to enforce our commitment of '08 levels. But now we are talking about rubber meeting the road, and actually accomplishing the reductions in spending. And that's what this resolution will be about.
Q: Mr. Leader, just to follow up on someone else's question. So there's been no specific instruction to Members of the conference to avoid certain language when they are talking about health care repeal?
Mr. Cantor: No. There's been no discussion about acceptable language or nonacceptable language. What we have said and the Speaker has said is this: You know, we are about policy oriented debate here. This is an issue of policy that was hotly debated over the last Congress, something that has grave consequences for this country and is deserving of a civil discourse in the House of Representatives. And that's what we expect.
Q: Will there be a list of the types of specific spending cuts that you're looking for as it comes to the debt? I mean, you will ask, say, each committee chair of jurisdiction to say, Hey, here are some specifics that we want cut, and then you will make a decision on what things as you go up to that debt limit vote?
Mr. Cantor: Well, Chad, what I am hopeful is that we will see a progression week in and week out of our commitment and a demonstration of that commitment to cut spending. As you know, our YouCut program will be implemented beginning today. As a matter of fact, we have a bill on the floor for the Government Printing Office to reduce spending there. Every week we will be doing that. We will also be asking our committees to go about inventorying, overseeing, examining the kinds of regulations that demonstrate an opportunity for savings here at the Federal level, and we will be looking to them and their work to provide some guidance to us. All of this, I believe, will be borne out through the discussion not only on the debt limit, but certainly with the discussion as far as the CR is concerned, and the discussion as far as the budget is concerned as well.