Transcript: Majority Leader Cantor's Pen & Pad

Posted on

 Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Q: So did you have VCU in the brackets?

Mr. Cantor: I did. I did have VCU in the brackets. I did not have VCU in the final four.

Q: How about Richmond?

Mr. Cantor: I had Richmond, I believe in Sweet 16.

Anyway, needless to say, we are all about Rams Nation. It is an extraordinary experience for a town like Richmond, which isn't necessarily one you think of as being college hoops central, but we are very, very excited about VCU, and obviously the town is abuzz. We are hoping for great things.

Mr. Cantor: Welcome back. I know we are all sort of anticipating the next two weeks as weeks with a lot of work at hand.

I was interested in a quote by the Democratic Whip that said “Republicans haven't introduced a single jobs bill.” Frankly, nothing could be further from the truth.

Last week during the district work period I spent some time at home in my district in Richmond as well as traveling. I went to Stanford and delivered a speech in which we rolled out some of our thoughts about a jobs agenda. And you have heard me talk in here before about our two track approach, cut and grow. The nature of the calendar and what we were left with in the last Congress sort of dictated that we focus on trying to get the fiscal house in order, something we believe is obviously essential, as do most Americans, when they deal with the same issue at the kitchen table or in their board rooms in their businesses. So we are fast about doing that.

But from a broader sense, I think it does raise the question, if the Democrats here believe that the only way you can create jobs is through action in Washington, that is where we differ. We believe you have to work to create an environment that fosters long term growth, that you have to create an environment that fosters and brings about once again an entrepreneurial spirit of activity here in this country.

That is very much what our agenda is about. I mean, we, obviously, are about pulling Washington back from the over-intrusion in the private sector where we believe that Washington has become a major impediment to people who want to jump in and create businesses.

You know, I often cite the Kauffman Foundation as an entity that has done a study. It is proven jobs come from startup businesses disproportionately and they talk about gazelle businesses, those business that are 3 to 5 years old. And although they only represent 1 percent of all companies, they represent 10 percent of all job growth. And, on average, this top 1 percent creates 88 jobs per year whereas the average company creates two to three jobs per year.

So if that is the case, why aren’t we focusing on helping people create businesses again? Why don't we become a country of startups? And that is our sense of the direction we need to go.

So we see our committees thoroughly going through the regulatory structure. We are going to be bringing bills to the floor starting next week that have to do with pulling government back out of the business of impeding job growth and hurting the ability for small businesses to operate.

We also have begun to talk about tax reform, and it is something that I think both sides of the aisle want to see happen. First and foremost, we believe you ought to reduce the corporate rate. America, next to Japan, has the most disadvantaged tax structure for companies. That is like telling our American based multinationals they have to fight with at least one, if not both hands, behind their back and win the fight.

That is why we believe it should be brought down to 25 percent, in the context of fundamental reform, which is going to take some time. That is why I propose fast tracking what is known as repatriation. It is allowing for American based multinationals to bring back some of their corporate profits that are parked overseas.

The estimates are there is $1.25 trillion parked overseas. To me, it would make sense. That is money you don't have to print and can bring it back into this economy.

So if we offer lower rates, bring that capital back in, then we can see that money flow into our economy and be invested here. I mean, we have had discussions with CEOs and Presidents and major international companies based here in America that say, we are investing overseas. We are building skyscrapers in European capitals because we can't bring it back in here because of the duty owed to shareholders. We can't take the haircut that our high corporate tax rate causes.

So not only that, we believe very much that it is important for us to talk about patent reform. What is essential to our growth in this country over the years has been innovation.

We are the crucible of innovation, and we ought not have an antiquated patent system where you have 700,000 patents backlogged right now. We ought to be the best place to pursue that innovation.

We also believe that we have a serious problem in our antiquated visa system. Over and over again, we are hearing that you have got foreign nationals coming to be educated at the world's best research universities and colleges here in this country, they are educated here but yet it is very difficult for them to stay and then they leave. Why wouldn't we want to have the best and brightest in the world here to help us create jobs, to help us grow this economy? Those are the types of things that we are intent on doing to create an environment that fosters growth.

With that, let me come back to what's going on in the Capitol. Everybody knows that April 8 is the deadline, which is looming, together with a very serious spending fight that we are engaged in.

Unfortunately, from day 1, it has seemed that Leader Reid and Chuck Schumer in the Senate ignored the scope of the debt and deficit problem that this country is experiencing and honestly have offered no sensible plan to address this deficit and cut spending. Compare that to what we have done as Republicans and the Majority in the House.

You know, first we debated H.R. 1. We had over 47 hours of debate on the House floor, beginning to demonstrate our commitment to an open process, allowing the Democrats countless amendments, and to get our fiscal house in order. We passed it and sent it to the Senate. That was 39 days ago, and it passed on February 19.

Then, with no action in the Senate, we again got together, we passed a short term continuing resolution that cut $4 billion and kept the government running for 14 days. As you know, we put together a second short term CR that we are now under and has a savings of $6 billion that has kept the government running now. And we have practically begged President Obama and Harry Reid to get serious and come to the table with a legitimate proposal.

Look, the bottom line is this, we know, and I have said in here before, the government is borrowing nearly 40 cents of every dollar it spends. You can't keep going like that, and you have got to do one or two things. You either have to cut spending or you have to raise taxes. It is that simple.

And so, I would ask Senator Reid and Chuck Schumer, if you don't have a serious plan to cut spending, then what taxes are you going to raise in order to carry this deficit? And how is that going to impact the people of this country? What is your tax increase plan?

And so, for 2 months, we have been here in this room almost every week, and I have said Republicans do not want to shut down the government. We just want to cut spending. That is what the American people are expecting us to do because that is what they have done in their households and their businesses.

Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer refuse to get serious and President Obama refuses to get involved. And so we are going to keep making the case for commonsense spending cuts in this era of staggering deficits and debt, and we are going to try and keep fighting to get our fiscal house in order. But we only control one of the three pieces to this puzzle here of the House, the Senate and the White House.

So if the government ends up in a shutdown because Democrats refuse to come off their defense of every dollar and cent of federal spending, then the shutdown will be on their hands.

With that, I am delighted to answer any questions.

Q: Next week, Mr. Ryan is expected to release his budget blueprint with some significant cuts, particularly in entitlements. With this looming about the same time as the CR will expire and if we are able to work something out, do you envision using that as a tool or a wedge with some of your most conservative Members who are suspect of, you know, deviating from the $61 billion figure and wanting deeper cuts or not moving off that dollar figure at all and your being able to say, "Well, look, you know, if you go with this, we are able to keep the government open, and we can even go deeper in this budget proposal"?

Mr. Cantor: No, I don't. Listen, I think everybody realizes the short term issues right now have to do with getting serious about the kind of spending that has skyrocketed over the last couple years. Since '08, we all know, this pot of money has increased over 20 percent. That is not something that is sustainable in government. No one in the private sector has experienced that kind of increase. So, I think, and most Americans agree, that you have to cut.

The larger issues that Paul Ryan and his Committee are going to be about in the budget proposal have to do with making sure that we can maintain a safety net in this country in the entitlement programs, and at the same time protect today's seniors, but facing the facts that most of us, 54 and younger, are not going to be able to enjoy the same type of programs that are in existence now. There has to be change, the numbers just don't add up.

Q: Mr. Cantor, Mr. Hoyer said this morning that, actually, the negotiations are pretty far along, that the Democrats are now at $51 billion and that you are at $72 billion and that things could be worked out in a couple of days. Is that how you see it?

Mr. Cantor: That is farfetched. Fifty one billion off of 2010 levels, I think that would be incredibly promising if that’s where the Democrats were. That is just not the case. And so we are going to continue to make sure that we fight for real spending cuts, just as we had proposed in H.R. 1, which amount to $61 billion off the current 2010 level.

Q: Sir, the numbers that you guys want to hit, but there are also some specific policy implications in the riders. And a lot of Members I know have told me that they are not voting for a bill that doesn't, for example, de fund Planned Parenthood or de fund the health care overhaul or take on the EPA. How important are those components to a final deal?

Mr. Cantor: Well, first of all, as far as Planned Parenthood is concerned, I think most Americans overwhelmingly say we ought not be spending taxpayer dollars for abortion. And I think that pretty much says where most of Americans are, and most of our Members are.

But, look, before we get into discussing these riders, and certainly here in this context, look at where we are. I think all of us have sort of seen now Chuck Schumer did us a favor. He exposed their tactic. I know in that conference call some of you may have been on, you have heard his comment. He is basically instructing his Members to deem any spending cut unreasonable, any spending cut.

So, clearly, they are not serious. And so the whole context of this discussion is about cutting spending to begin with. And so, if we can't even come together on that notion, and all they are going to do is play games, you know, I think that explains why we are where we are.

Q: Mr. Cantor, if the state of negotiations don't improve by April 8th, is there any chance there would be another short term CR?

Mr. Cantor. We are really committed to try and get resolution for a long term CR. We have, as was indicated by the question earlier, we have bigger problems to deal with. And, again, I can't see how we can do anything with folks on the other side of the Capitol and the other side of the aisle who now think this is a political game. This is serious money, there are serious programs, with serious consequences to real people here.

Q: A few weeks ago, a lot of us sat in this room, actually right here, with representatives from Paul Ryan, who said that you guys wanted to cut about $32 billion, $33 billion from the rest of fiscal year 2011. Well, why is that not good enough now, when all reports coming out of the White House and the Senate seem to suggest the number is around that $30 billion in cuts? And would you agree to anywhere near that, or does it have to be more to appease the Tea Party or conservative wing of your caucus?

Mr. Cantor: Again, I am telling you that the nature of the progress that you have been discussing with Members on the other side of the Capitol do not reflect where I think that the negotiations are. And we all had the discussion before about how we got to the $61 billion or not. That is the House position. That is what we are driving for.

Honestly, that is something for most Americans that when you raise with them the difficulties we are having, they scratch their heads in wonderment, thinking, why is this even an issue when you are facing a nearly $1.6 trillion annual deficit? I mean, come on.

Q: Mr. Cantor, are you ruling out doing another short term CR?

Mr. Cantor: Yeah, I mean, I want to see a long term CR here. We have bigger things to deal with. Time is up here. We need to see Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer get serious. We need to see the President get involved. And I am very dismayed by what we have now seen the motive is behind Mr. Schumer. He says every spending cut is unreasonable. Now, come on. That is what we are dealing with here, and I think we all sort of get that.

Q: Mr. Cantor, when do you expect net neutrality to come to the House floor? And do you expect to have many Democratic votes on that?

Mr. Cantor: Obviously, I am not the Whip on this side or the other side, and I couldn't tell you about Democrat support. But we certainly are anticipating, next week, having the ability to bring to the floor action coming out of the Energy and Commerce Committee to try and stop the implementation of net neutrality rules.

Q: Mr. Cantor, you just told us where the negotiations are not, but tell us where they are. I mean, how far apart are you guys on this thing?

Mr. Cantor: Well, clearly, if we have Mr. Schumer indicating that his caucus members are to deem any spending cut unreasonable, we are not getting too far.

Q: No, but, I mean, you told us where we are not. They are telling us where they think we are. Why not tell us something about where you think we actually are?

Mr. Cantor: All I can tell you is where I think we should be, and that has been our position all along. Put this in context: you have $1.6 trillion in deficit right now, and the American people are just scratching their heads, saying, "No wonder. Again, Washington doesn't get it."

Q: Well, I just want to clarify. So you are saying that your position is the $61 billion and the White House is offering this additional $20 billion. And if you add that to the 10, that is 30. So is that middle point, is that a nonstarter for you? Are you just saying that it has to be the 61?

Mr. Cantor: All I can tell you is we have seen no indication whatsoever of what the Senate can pass or what their position is. So perhaps the White House is telling you where negotiations are, they aren't telling us that, and they certainly have not told me that.

Q: But if they came to you with this one in the middle, is that something that is even something that you can sell to your Members?

Mr. Cantor: We are not going to negotiate the number at this table. You know that. What we are saying is, we are dealing with a very frustrating situation where it doesn't seem that Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer are serious. I think the President is serious, but he hasn't gotten involved yet. I would like to see the White House get involved.

Q: The Democrats, their side of the story is they presented a deal to you last week where they were going to this $20 billion number and that you walked away because you were having problems agreeing within your own conference. Are you refuting that story entirely, saying that never happened, there was no offer, there was no internal disagreement?

Mr. Cantor: I am saying there has never been any internal disagreement on our side about the need for us to go forward and cut spending. And we have always said that H.R. 1 is our position. We have demonstrated that. And the Senate has not demonstrated anything. They are telling you a lot. I know that a lot of you talked to Senator Schumer, who wants to continue to sort of drive this wedge within our conference. And I am telling you that is not true.

Q: Well, since you and Schumer aren't even in the talks, why do either of you know what is going on? I mean, the fact is that Daley did talk to Barry Jackson about coming up to 70.

Mr. Cantor: That is what Barry and Daley are telling you?

Q: Republicans and Democrats have told me that, yes. And so, and the fact is that you had discussed in the meetings 1.052 as a potential compromise, depending on what happened with the riders. So are you walking, I just want to know where you are. Are you saying 1.052 is too high for you?

Mr. Cantor: What I am saying is, I have not heard the White House, you are saying that Barry committed to you that is what was said, as well?

Q: I didn't say Barry.

Mr. Cantor: Right. So that is where my position is, too. I think it is very one sided, what you are hearing.

Q: No, I am saying I am hearing it from both sides. There is no question there was a discussion of 70 from the administration. They were going to move to 70 --

Mr. Cantor: Well, let's go back and use 61 as the benchmark.

Q: All right. Then that would be the equivalent of about 30. And you had offered, in the course of the negotiations not you, because you have never been in a meeting, like Schumer. But the point is, you had discussed a potential compromise, a figure, not that I am holding you to it, of 1.052. Two people have told me that.

Mr. Cantor: Well, again, I think the "you" is the problem. Okay? Because --

Q: No, "you" isn't the problem, because the "you" I am telling you, as a reporter, that two Republicans have told me that was discussed, and, in fact, it was seriously discussed. Now, it isn't discussed as a final deal. No one should say it is a final deal, and no one should say it is separate from the riders. But the reality is, there was a period of time where people were saying maybe we could get around this number. Now, this Democratic argument and you seem to be confirming it is that you are nervous about 1.052 and that you don't want to go that high, and that is why you are suddenly talking about, "The only number is 61."

Mr. Cantor: The assumption in your question is that there was a firm position, as far as a unified --

Q: No, I didn't use the word "firm" at all. I said to you, people get in a room and they talk, well, how could we do this? One possible thing is we will talk about 1.052, we will talk about half the riders, and we will -- that is the kind of thing that you know very well happens in discussions. I am not saying you are locked in to 1.052. I never used "firm." But the point is there was a discussion.

Mr. Cantor: You know that?

Q: Yes, I know --

Mr. Cantor: Right, I have not been told by both sides that. So that is what I am saying. There is a difference in my knowledge base.

Q: What I am asking you is, having told you that both sides have discussed that, do you think that is too high a number for you? Sounds like you think 1.052 is too high a number for your caucus.

Mr. Cantor: Look, let's just suffice it to say I think we should be driving as many spending cuts that we possibly can, consistent with the desire and unified position of our Members. We have not seen the Democrats, the President or anybody in the White House or the Senate, indicate that they are willing to go where we want to go with spending cuts.

Q: Mr. Leader, do you want to pass, not want to, do you intend to pass, if there is a deal to be had, do you intend to pass it with 218 Republicans or more, or are you willing to pass it the way the last short term CR was passed with significant Democratic support? And I know you will take as many Democrats as you can get, but do you need 218 Republicans on this thing in order to bring it to the floor?

Mr. Cantor: Again, this is an exercise where if you look at that last vote that we had in the short term CR, the reason why, I believe, that we lost as many Republicans as we did is that they are frustrated. They are frustrated that we are not getting the job done. And I think that is where we are now and why I come back and tell you, a short term CR without long term commitment is unacceptable.

Again, we are going to need to see a deal struck where our Members can go home and tell their constituents that we are doing what we said we would do. And that is really what this is about. So if we get more Democrats to help us, great.

Q: Okay, but what you said you could do has to be -- I mean, you --

Mr. Cantor: Well, what is your question?

Q: Well, you committed in the pledge to a hundred. I guess my question is, is there a deal to be had? Will you pass a 6 month CR, no more short term ones, that doesn't have at least 218 Republicans? Are you willing to pass something that you need Democratic support to push over the line? Assuming it is going to be something less than 61 because you are only one third of the puzzle piece.

Mr. Cantor. Right, right. Look, we are trying to get as many cuts for the taxpayers as we can. That is all I can respond to.

Q: A lot of conservatives have been describing a shutdown, saying it is more accurately a "slowdown." And in your statement yesterday, you referred to it as a "partial shutdown." Is that how you see it? Is it really that bad if, you know, there are a few days where, you know, some agencies aren't funded?

Mr. Cantor: Certainly, it is bad. I mean, again, how does that reflect on what is going on here in Washington and the real desire to begin to solve some problems? We have said all along we don't want a shutdown -- partial, slowdown, whatever you call it. And, you know, we all know that there are steps that can be taken to insist on the essential services. I don't think anybody here wants to deny our troops the ability to get paid.
Again, we ought not be thinking that it is not that bad. I think it is something that, in my opinion, will fall in the laps of Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer, and others, because they have been unwilling to come off of a position that government spending must continue the way it has.

Q: Those hearings that are going to be held tomorrow and the next day, what are the critical questions that you want to be addressed by the Secretary?

Mr. Cantor: What I was disappointed about, in terms of the President's remarks last night, is that I didn't see victory defined. I think a lot of us were left asking what the end game is. A lot of us are asking the question about how long we are going to be there. And all that relates back to defining what success is going to be here.

The President has said in one instance that Gadhafi has to go and regime change is the goal. If that is the case, what are the elements that we need to see come into play to make that happen? What about the rebels? Who is it that we are going to see step into the vacuum, if it were to be created, by Gadhafi's exiting?

So there are all kinds of unanswered questions right now, and hopefully the White House can come and brief Members and we can begin to get some clarity.

Q: Mr. Cantor, would Republicans share any blame in a government shutdown?

Mr. Cantor: We have been very serious in our attempt to pose some sensible spending cuts. We have said consistently, we are not for shutting the government down, we are for cutting spending. And, to this day, all we can see is public resistance to our attempts to reflect what is going on in this country, which is to make sure that this government begins to right size and do more with less. I guess the unintended exposure of what is really going on, that all the Democrats in the Senate want to do is to label us as extreme because we want to cut spending.

Q: Mr. Leader, you have talked about repatriation as an interim step toward wider tax overhaul. Aides to the Speaker and Mr. Camp have both said that they want it in one package as opposed to a step by step basis. Is it realistic, given your position, that this is going to happen soon?

Mr. Cantor: I think, if you talk to Mr. Camp, that is not his position. And I wouldn't think it is the Speaker's either, although I haven't talked to the Speaker recently about it. But there is no question that I think most of us believe and Chairman Camp is of the opinion that we should drive forward trying to help this economy. And I think we all see the ability to give companies an incentive to bring capital back in is a good thing right now while the economy is still struggling.

Q: Would there be a caveat as to how that money was used that was brought back in? Would they be instructed to --

Mr. Cantor: Again, in order to get this done, we have got to have the acquiescence of the Senate and hopefully then convince the White House. So I don't want to get into specifics. It would not be my druthers for Washington to tell shareholders, who are pensioners, retirees, et cetera, who have interest in the success of their investments, how those dollars should be used. But, again, I think we all can sort of see where we can agree and maybe get this thing done in an interim period.

Q: Mr. Cantor, you mentioned earlier that a lot of your Members are frustrated. How much of that frustration actually transposes to pressure on the leaders to hold at that number and what the Democrats describe as "100 percent their way or no way at all"?

Mr. Cantor: You know, I don't really know how to answer that other than, certainly, leaders are elected by the Members. But I think if you were to look at the majority of our conference, what people are looking for is real progress on spending cuts, real progress on changing the culture here in Washington. And for Members to see that we can come together with the other side and resolve at least the short term challenge, I mean, that is what is so frustrating. It is frustrating to us, as well.

Q: But they are putting extra pressure on the leaders to hold the line, as it were, because the Tea Party patriots are also coming to town on Thursday to do the same thing.

Mr. Cantor: Again, any pressure stems from the notion that, you know, $60 billion versus $1.6 trillion seems relatively little. And that is where I think any frustration stems from, again, given the percentages at work there. I mean, that is not even 5 percent. If you compare that to what is going on in the private sector, that is just what is so incomprehensible to the public. And I think that translates into Member frustration when they hear from the people they represent.

Q: Mr. Leader, to take up what was said here, Mr. Hoyer, this morning at his press conference, insists that it is the Tea Party people that are driving you all in the leadership -- that they won't give in, they are standing exactly where they are, they don't want to give in on any of these cuts. You would like to, to work out a deal, but they are driving the agenda, and they won't cave. He calls them the "perfection caucus," taking it from Newt Gingrich.

Mr. Cantor: You know, I think that is just engaging in political hyperbole. This notion that the Tea Party -- remember what the acronym means: Taxed Enough Already. These are people who reflect what I think most Americans right now are feeling. Washington spends way too much, and it shouldn't be spending money we don't have.

And I think that you could more accurately portray the debate here as those who want to protect the status quo, those who won't come off of the defense of spending every dollar and cent that the government is, versus those of us who believe it is time to change. It is time for us to really reflect the fact that you can't keep spending money you don't have, you can't keep borrowing nearly 40 cents of every dollar you spend.

Thank you.

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