Transcript: Majority Leader Cantor's Pen & Pad with Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy

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Monday, March 14, 2011

Mr. Cantor: Thank you for coming. Welcome back. Obviously, there are a lot of events that are going on around the world right now, but I want to start off the discussion trying to focus on our job at hand.

As you know, we have on the floor this week the short term CR. This is yet another attempt for us to make sure we don't shut down the government, but that we continue to cut spending. This short-term CR is designed on the same formula that we did the last one. That is consistent with the formula under H.R. 1 that is cutting $100 billion off the 2011 request or the $61 billion off 2010, and it essentially amounts to $2 billion a week. The bill is designed to address a stopgap funding need for the next three weeks so it amounts to $6 billion.

We are hopeful that, once again, this math is met with approval by the Democrats. We intend to stick to our commitment to reduce spending from the 2010 levels at $61 billion. But also, we hope that this will be the last time that we have to engage in any stopgap measures. We would like to see this resolved. I think most Americans would like it resolved. The President continues to say he would like to see it resolved. But as we said before, we have not seen any indication as to where the President is. In fact we have not seen the Senate able to pass a measure that can garner 60 votes - as we saw last week. So we are still trying to see how we can go forward long term to get this business done - business that should have been done last year - so we can go about the business before the taxpayers for 2012.

While we are busy engaging in this exercise needed of cutting spending, we are also assuming a two track approach as Republicans in the House. We believe strongly that it's not only cutting spending, but it's how we are going to grow this economy that will contribute to getting us back onto a fiscal path that is a positive one, and also create an environment where private sector jobs can come back.

This week we have a jobs forum. This will be, for the first time, a forum that will lead to discussions about Washington listening. We're going to have job creators from businesses both small, medium and large that will come here, and we will have several remote locations with a lot of new media activity going on, we have a live Twitter Wall, as well as the ability for members to participate online. And our sense is we want to listen. We want to stop dictating, if you will, and legislating from up on high – deciding on how to spend taxpayer money to create jobs and instead listen to job creators as to what they're facing and how we can be most helpful to create an environment that fosters long term growth.

In our Committees, we are seeing action in markups, hearings and otherwise that moves to try and remove the impediments that this Administration has put into place for job growth. We will see, prior to the Easter recess, bills coming to the floor dealing with the EPA greenhouse gas rules. We'll also see bills coming to the floor prior to the Easter recess having to do with FCC rules and net neutrality. But again, these two regulations have the potential for significantly harmful effects for job growth, and that's why we believe it should be the business of Congress to remove those impediments. We are also looking to jump start the discussions about tax reform and trade policy. As you know, Dave Camp and his Committee, the Ways and Means Committee, is moving along with hearings dealing with tax reform. I think it’s fair to say there's consensus among members, perhaps on both sides of the aisle, that we ought to reduce corporate rates and we ought to broaden the base in the tax system so as to ensure our competitiveness for businesses here at home. Also, we saw with regard to trade, the Wall Street Journal today indicating that there's bipartisan support in the House and Senate for passing the three trade bills; Korea, Colombia and Panama. Now it's up to the President. He continues to say that he is desirous of seeing those bills pass. We've seen the numbers, up to 250,000 jobs can be created or brought about with their passage. We would like to see that done as soon as possible.

Again, by taking this two track approach, by cutting and growing, we believe we can best serve the interest of the people of this country in order for us to regain our economic footing. With that I am delighted to have my good friend, colleague and the Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy.

Mr. McCarthy: Thank you. It's good to be back again. As Eric laid out, we laid an aggressive agenda between now and April. You see the one thing that our focus has always been on, bringing back prosperity and jobs and getting our fiscal house in order. He talked about numerous different things from trade to our tax policy that you will see coming forward. Also this week on the floor, it is our hope this is the last short term CR we do. Now, why we are in this predicament? You all understand when the Democrats were in the Majority, having both houses and the presidency, they never produced a budget. Where in the House unheard of are hours of debate where Republicans and Democrats could offer amendments with people winning on all sides. More than three weeks ago we produced H.R. 1. Last week, even our bill, getting more votes than the status quo over on the Senate side. The difficulty that we face now is the President never even engaged until the last days when we were passing the short term. The Vice President comes down for I guess a meeting then leaves the country. Luckily, we've heard he's maybe back in the country now and we can get going forward. The real question is how serious are they. The Democrats have the Majority in the Senate. They haven't even been able to get what their hopes and dreams were off the floor. It's hard to figure out where we go forward. This is not a way to run a government, this is not a way to run a country, and we would like to see it get finalized and move on, because we're moving from this perspective of a new budget with new hopes, with new dreams, with prosperity of jobs being created and getting our fiscal house in order. So open it up from there and yield back.

Mr. Cantor: Questions?

Q: I wanted to ask about the short term CR. It seems like there's some feeling among the conservatives in the caucus, some resistance to it. Some announced several Members announced they're going to vote against it? And I guess I'm wondering how widespread you think that sentiment is and if you'll have any trouble getting even a short term CR approved?

Mr. Cantor: First of all, let me just say, there is a lot of frustration about the inability of this place to produce results. We have, time and again, seen the Senate unable to put a bill on the floor that can garner the 60 votes. And so, obviously, there are a lot of other issues that we would like to see dealt with in any kind of longer term solution. But right now we are trying to position ourselves so that we can ensure there is not a government shutdown, but to continue cutting spending and reach a result that I think that we can get a majority of Members to go along with. Right now we are forced, because of the inaction in the Senate, in order to avoid the shutdown, to stay at the current spending reduction rate.

Mr. McCarthy: Remember what we're talking about here. When the President first laid out that he thought you should freeze spending, well, that wasn't even where his own party was. In the last short term CR on the House side, the leader, Pelosi, voted against it, and Steny voted for it; Clyburn voted "no," and Larson voted "yes." One hundred and four Democrats said "yes." More voted "yes" than "no." So they were for cuts, different from where the President stood.

The frustration you feel from every Republican here is the frustration that are the Democrats serious about doing something; the Senate can't get something off the floor; and where's the leadership of the President. He can't even tell us what he would agree to, let alone somebody show up a meeting longer than one time and then leave the country.

And from every point, standing here, we are very frustrated, that's right. So you're going to continue to see it. That's why our hopes are, Democrats are going to have to step up to make sure that this is our very last one.

Q: Mr. Cantor, do you think, though, that you know, you say there's problems with the Senate. You mention the differences in the votes in the Democratic leadership. But if there are issues with this bill I mean, I've talked to, you know, Jim Jordan's folks who say, you know, he's going to vote against the bill. He commands a lot of, you know, folks with the Republican Study Committee - if there's problems with this bill, do you hang that more on the Democrats or do you hang that more on the conservatives who object to what you're being forced to do, at this point, to get the?

Mr. McCarthy: Well, Jim's problem with the bill is, he wants to finish it. That's Jim's frustration. It's Eric's frustration. It's Kevin's frustration.

Q: Mr. McCarthy, but right now, the leadership is essentially being, you know, accused of wanting to support ObamaCare, simply because there's still funding as far as the appropriation is concerned

Mr. Cantor: Let me address that, too. I mean, there's a lot of discussion about $105 billion that was put into the ObamaCare bill. And let's look at the record here. We passed, the first bill here, a repeal of ObamaCare. We did it again when it came to H.R. 1, because we put a limiting amendment in there saying that no funds will be used to implement ObamaCare. Our Committees are going about marking up the bills which will repeal the mandatory slush funds in that bill. And we also are committed to starving the agencies of funding necessary to implement that bill. We knew, when the Democrats passed ObamaCare, that the agencies did not have the money necessary to promulgate the regs and to implement the bill. Our intention is to make sure that we starve the agencies of the monies that they need to do so. We are fully committed to making sure that ObamaCare is not implemented.

Q: I want to ask you about nuclear power, given what's happening in Japan. I believe you have a facility in your district that's applying for a permit. I'm just wondering, given what's going on in Japan, do you have any concerns about the future of nuclear energy in this country? And what do you think the next step is?

Mr. Cantor: I know there's a lot of desire for everyone to get their facts from those on the ground in Japan, and they're so overwhelmed there that I believe that we are still awaiting exactly what happened. But as far as we know, this is the result of a tsunami. The shutdowns and what is going on over there with the reactors has direct causal link with a tsunami. I do believe that we certainly want to get to the bottom of it. And if we can learn any lessons from Japan's experience, for sure. But nuclear power is an essential part of the energy mix in this country. And the President has said so, and I share that position.

Q: Ag subsidies is something that comes up all the time and then never really goes anywhere, in terms of cutting them. For a longer term CR for the fiscal year 2012 budget, do you think that cuts to the ag subsidies might be something that you would seriously consider this time?

Mr. Cantor: Well, I can tell you and I’ll let Kevin speak to it, but I will tell you this, we have said everything is on the table. Just like the American people are having to do more with less and tightening their belts, so should Washington. So we have said all along that we are going to be looking at programs to see if they're fulfilling the mission that was originally intended and to see whether that mission is valid at this point.

Mr. McCarthy: When you have a $1.5 trillion deficit, everything is on the table.

Q: Mr. Leader, a question on Japan, if I might, to follow on that. Given the size of the disaster is not over, of course, but given the size of it and the robust response that the world is trying to make in rescue, just looking at some of the budget lines that are cut in the Republicans' CR: $415 billion for international disaster assistance, USAID is cut; National Weather Service, NOAA cut $455 million. When a disaster like this happens, do you have any concerns that, while everything is on the table and we're making necessary cuts, that the United States' ability to respond to disasters like in Japan could be hampered if those cuts go through?

Mr. Cantor: Look, I think that all of us need to be tempered by the fact that we've got to stop spending money we don't have. I mean, essentially what you're saying is, go borrow money from the Japanese so we can go and spend it there to help the Japanese. I think that the President has indicated that we are ready to respond to our ally in Japan if they need us. We do know that there is a lot of ongoing cooperation with our agencies and the Government of Japan.

As far as NOAA is concerned, if you look to see where funding levels are, I think H.R. 1 called for $4.4 billion worth of spending for NOAA going forward this year. There was a 20 percent or more increase in NOAA's funding from 2008 to 2010. Essentially what we've done is allow NOAA to keep half of that increase. Nowhere have we indicated that we're directing NOAA not to emphasize the services it provides for the safety, health, and welfare of Americans. I'm told that this point was raised by some employees at NOAA that then made it known that they didn't think that the cuts were needed. We've all got to do more with less here.

Mr. McCarthy: And remember what Republicans have done. In 2005, after the last tsunami, we funded the buoys that went out to make the warning. As Eric stated, NOAA is funded more than $400 million higher than it was in 2008 after H.R. 1.

Q: Mr. Leader, when you were first putting together the CR, you basically prorated the cuts over a 7 month period. And then, when that wasn't sufficient, you went beyond that. Do you think that your current bill exceeds your original promise? And, secondly, I mean, the math is a little fuzzy, but basically, if you go back to the original promise, you are almost halfway to where the Democrats are now.

Mr. Cantor: If we pass this interim CR for 3 weeks, we're at $10 billion worth of cuts since March 4th. So I'm not sure about your question about being halfway to where. But I will say, and maybe Kevin wants to speak to this the Pledge to America said we're going to reduce spending to 2008 levels. That was always the goal, and we are moving consistent with that goal as we cut $2 billion per week. Again, I want to say, we're doing all this not just to cut, not just to say that we're reducing the size of government. There's a reason for all this. The reason is the continued borrowing and spending is providing a real weight of uncertainty to this economy and to job creators. And that's why we are so focused on fiscal discipline, but also to send a signal to job creators that they can have a sense of confidence that this government will live within its means so that they can go about growing again.

Mr. McCarthy: The only thing I would say just imagine, imagine what Americans could achieve if they didn't have the burden of the debt we have before us. The question raised is, well, aren't we almost halfway there? The pledge said we are going to put ourselves onto a path of balancing the budget and paying down the debt. And our dream, it's more than as Eric talks about, this is about prosperity, this is about bringing back the American dream. You know, years from now, no one is going to remember our names, but they're going to remember 2011 as either the year that we brought the American dream back or the year we began to fade into history. That's really what the definition and the conversation we're having.

Q: So can you tell me a little bit, where's the impasse with the Senate Democratic leadership? Have you all not met with them since Biden went abroad and then came back? When is the next meeting scheduled? Are you going to take unfunding health care off the table? Like, what are you all going to do to move forward? There were seven questions there, actually.

Mr. Cantor: Right. Let me just respond generally. I mean, we have the business at hand this week that we hope that this short-term CR is met with positive response in the Senate so we can avoid a shutdown, and we can continue to cut spending. I think both Kevin and I have said and it does reflect the overwhelming majority, I think, of Members here, not just Republican we want to resolve this for the American people. And most believe you have to shrink the spending in this town in order to signal to the American people and job creators that we're serious, as well as investors abroad.

Mr. McCarthy: Well, look what PIMCO has just done last week. PIMCO, largest bond fund, sold Americans' treasuries. Does that not send a signal to everybody? Does that not send a signal that we have to be serious? And we're sitting here debating whether we're going to go 3 weeks and whether the Majority or the President is going to come to the table? I think that's a big enough wake up call for people to get to the table, solve it for this year in a direction that we're showing we're going to change the path for next year.

You just heard what Eric talked about, all what we have coming up in the months ahead, from a budget with the new forward looking, from a tax proposal that makes us competitive again with the rest of the country, to a trade package that actually creates jobs today that's been sitting on the table.

When you look at where the country is, we have opportunity here. The frustration is people sitting back and afraid of leadership, afraid to step up, whether it be in the budget about where the future lies or whether it be today where we need to actually show and get rid of the uncertainty that holds a lot of businesses back from

Q: Just to piggyback off that point, has Reid, Schumer, Durbin, have they reached out to you in any way? And what's the starting point for these negotiations? This is now a real 3 week crunch time after this one presumably goes through. Have you heard anything from them?

Mr. Cantor: No, have you? I mean, maybe you have. But, I mean, but I will tell you, no. And, again, we hope to be working in concert this week to make sure the government doesn't shut down and we cut spending. And we hope that we can have an earnest discussion. All we've seen out of the Senate is their taking, those two numbers off the table, of $10 billion to $61 billion. But we've got other issues to resolve. And you're right, we're going to be under yet another time crunch as soon as this closes this week, if successful, and we are really intent on trying to make some progress here.

Q: Does it have something to do with, like, Republicans being fearful of being vilified, like they were in 1995 when the government shut down then, more than anything else?

Mr. Cantor: Does what?

Q: Does this have more to do with your fear of a government shutdown have to do with the Republicans being fearful of being vilified like they were back in 1995?

Mr. Cantor: No, this has to do with that we're trying to project, number one, that we are competent in our leadership and that we mean what we say; we want to reduce spending in this town, and that we want to start an agenda of reform with the other side. That's what it means. We want to change the way this place works.

Q: This is one for Mr. McCarthy. How difficult is it, doing this vote? I understand, obviously, Mr. Jordan has said he's going to vote against it; a number of freshman have said that they would oppose it. I mean, how many Democrats I mean, are you reaching out to Democrats? What are you doing to keep your team in line?

Mr. McCarthy: We continue to talk about the direction of where we're going to go. We have talked to all the different Members that we have. But if there's any message on the Democratic side, they really need to come up with something. This three weeks is not something that we're going to continue to always do.

And the question about the bill, we put our bill out of where we were. They've been a year and a half and never been able to get a budget out of the Senate, even though they've been in the majority. And they need to show some leadership and actually show where they're going.

Q: Leader Cantor, just to clarify on something earlier, are you or are you not going to use the CR to cut off that $105.5 billion in ObamaCare funding? Representatives Steve King and Michele Bachmann have said they've wanted to do that and sent you a letter saying, please use this CR as an opportunity to cut off that funding. Are you going to do that?

Mr. Cantor: Well, again, I think that what we've said earlier is that we were operating consistent with House rules that operates within the four corners of the document, if you will, which, in this CR, means discretionary funding for this year. But what I've also said here is, we are in another temporary stopgap mode. And the intention is, for this year and going forward to next year, we intend to starve the agencies of the funding they need to implement full force and effect of the ObamaCare bill. We've already tried to repeal it. We're going to continue along the lines of delaying it to try and defund it so that we can make sure it doesn't go into effect and bankrupt this country and to take away the health care that people know and like.

Mr. McCarthy: You had Energy and Commerce, last week's hearing. You are going to be seeing many committees having the hearings and going after this money, and there's a lot of different processes.

Q: Mr. Leader, just to follow on, if you haven't heard from them, can't you call? Or does it matter who calls whom, as long as you're moving the ball?

Mr. Cantor: There are discussions ongoing in this building, and hopefully we're going to see some resolution. We just haven't seen any demonstration of commitment on the part of the Senate to act. Again, the House has acted. You know, the only votes that have occurred have indicated there's more support for H.R. 1 and the spending levels in that bill versus what Leader Reid has proposed.

Q: Can I follow up on that? You say you haven't seen them act. How do you reconcile that with the vote they've had on their version of the bill? It did fail, but so did the Republican version over here in the Senate. They have put forward something that they consider their idea.

Mr. McCarthy: They haven't moved something out of their house.

Q: Right. But they also didn't pass your bill either over there.

Mr. McCarthy: Well, we should assume that our bill has more votes in their house than theirs, because that's what came forward.

Q: So you're saying, just to be clear excuse me is that you're waiting for a bill to come out of the Senate and that is what you're saying

Mr. Cantor: We haven't heard anything from Harry Reid other than really now to say he's going to come off $10 billion from the status quo. And that's our beef all along with Harry Reid, is he wanted to protect the status quo. We came to say, we're going to change things around here and reduce spending. So that’s what we're looking for and Harry Reid has put his idea on the table in the Senate, and, as Kevin indicated, he got less votes than ours.

So that's what we're saying. Let's get serious here. Let's make sure that we don't shut down the government. You know, again, I hope this is the last stopgap measure, that we can finally come to some resolution to this problem.

Q: Mr. Leader, there has been, I think, a lot of support when you're talking about cutting, as an economic issue, for the original $61 billion for the CRs. But when we get down to the specifics, in particular with these two CRs, you're seeing social conservatives want riders. There's talk about a D.C. abortion rider, all the way up to Planned Parenthood defunding. And now you've got Members saying they won't vote against the CR. On the other side, Michael Grimm of New York comes out and says today, the extreme right of the Tea Party is driving a shutdown instead of a solution. How long can you keep those two sides at bay? How long do you think you can keep the discussion about the economics of cutting $4 billion, $6 billion, $8 billion at a time without getting off message into the social policy?

Mr. Cantor: You know, it's not a question of getting off message here. I think, again, as we have said before, it's a level of frustration here that we if don't seem to be able to get off of a problem that we know has existed and we knew existed last December. And that was when the can began to be kicked again down the road by the other party when it was in the Majority.

We're saying, let's clean up this mess now, let's get it off the table. That's why you're seeing frustration around this yet again another stopgap measure. We hope and intend for this to be the last one. I mean, because it just doesn't seem like the American people are respectful of how this place works if it can't seem to deal with last year's business while we're almost halfway through, if not halfway through, this year.

So, again, you're right, there are a lot of other issues that our Members want to address in the spending prescription for the fiscal year. We're hopeful that we can come to a resolution with some of those issues, whether it has to do with taxpayer funding of abortion or otherwise, we want to get this thing done.

Q: Mr. Leader, you hope this is the last one or it is the last one?

Mr. Cantor: Well, how could anybody be definitive here?

Q: Well, you could say you won't do it again.

Q: Leader Cantor, you said the Senate Democrats have been pretty much MIA. What about the White House? Have you heard from them?

Mr. Cantor: The White House has certainly, indicated its desire to get this done. We just want to see some action. We are in a position where we have put our position forward and have not seen any reciprocal acts on the part of the Democrats, White House or Senate.

Mr. McCarthy: The White House, in essence, assigned the Vice President to negotiate. They set a meeting up and set the time without talking to either the Speaker or the Republican leader on the Senate side. They heard about it at a press conference. So they staged what they wanted to do. The Vice President then left the country.

So that's why we're at the point of where we are today, to have to do a 3 week. It's not because we weren't sitting, willing to return a phone call or even have a meeting with anybody there. We're willing to come; we're showing we do. We even had an open debate on the floor to let everybody decide and send it over to the other side.

So let's be true for why we're here and what has transpired since then. We're trying to make a new direction with dealing with last year's and being able to move forward. The sooner we're done with this, the sooner you can look forward to other items.

Q: Mr. Leader, though, critics of your side, the way the talks are going, they say you want $60 billion, that's it, that's your deal, you won't back down. So if that's true, how can you have a talk with the Democrats and try to even things out and go 50 50? How can there be --

Mr. McCarthy: Well, how do you ever negotiate with yourself?

Mr. Cantor: Right. I mean, it has to do with, where is the other side? Where is the President? Where is Harry Reid? I mean, that's the point. There's been no indication that they're willing to move.

Mr. McCarthy: And how do you know what the other side is? First, the President said we should freeze spending. Well, that wasn't where the majority of Democrats were in the House. Then Durbin said they couldn't go higher. Well, more votes came from the Republican bill than the other. So I'm not sure they know where they are.

It would probably be a good exercise for them to open up the Senate floor and have what the House did and come to the conclusion where the Senate is, if they really want to be able to negotiate and know where they are. Because I'm not quite sure their leadership is where the rest of the body is, let alone the American people.

Q: Mr. Leader, you said that you wanted to jump start discussions on tax reform. I was wondering if you are planning anything different than just the hearings that you have been having, any discussions with Democrats, any type of other thing?

Mr. Cantor: Listen, all that is in the purview of the Ways and Means Committee. I'm meeting with Chairman Camp on a regular basis. I know he is very intent on trying to get some discussions going with the other side of the aisle.

The President has indicated, when I spoke to him several weeks, a month or so ago, of our desire to join him because he said he wants to reduce corporate rates, and we believe that is a great way to promote job creation in this country.

So, using that as a jumping off standpoint, how do we effect broad based tax reform? Enhancing the base, lowering rates, and adding to the competitiveness of our businesses here.

So, yes, the intention is for us to follow through on that commitment, and Chairman Camp is leading up that effort.

Q: Mr. Leader, I've heard a couple of different things: You hope this is the last short term CR, and then you said you intend for it to be the last one. Is it the last one, like, this is it, you're not doing any more?

Mr. Cantor: And you're serious and listening to what I say as far as "yes" or "no." I'm being facetious.

But, I mean, listen, come on. We've reached the point of real frustration on the part of the American people. They expect there to be adults in charge here. They expect a government that's competent and one, frankly, that listens.

When the voters went to the polls in November, the clear voice was, "start producing results.” We know, as do they, we need to change the way this place works, starting with trying to stop spending money we don't have. We're trying to affect that.

We hope that this is the last time this happens, that we can come to some resolution, and we just encourage Leader Reid and the President to join us in trying to make this happen.

Thank you.


2013 House Calendar