Transcript: Majority Leader Cantor's Pen & Pad

Posted on

 Monday, May 23, 2011

Mr. Cantor: Good afternoon. I didn't know whether you were coming at 12:30. So welcome back.

Obviously, we have a very busy week on the floor. We have several Veterans Affairs bills on the floor, as well as several reauthorization bills, FAA being one of them, small business, as well as the PATRIOT Act followed by, at the end of the week, the Defense Authorization bill.

Also, tomorrow we will have a visit from Prime Minister Netanyahu addressing the joint session of Congress. And among other things going on this week, we will have continued meetings with the Vice President and others to be held about the debt limit discussion. In general, we intend to continue to focus on jobs and the economy.

On that last note, since the beginning of Congress, consistent with our commitment in the Pledge to America, we have always said that we were elected to do something about the economy and to stop spending money that we don't have. Obviously, of late, we have been talking a lot about the spending reduction side and how to address the deficit from cutting back on the expenditures.

But later this week, we are going to be unveiling the growth agenda. What we are trying to portray is this: we have said all along there are two tracks. This is the other piece of the painting. The one side of the painting is about spending reductions and managing down the debt through expenditure reduction. The other is about growth.

This will also serve the purpose of trying to further define the choice that the electorate will have in the upcoming November 2012 elections. Essentially, the choice is going to be more taxes and more government, versus more growth and more jobs.

A lot of you in this room have talked a lot about revenues and the need for revenue. I'm always asked the question, don't you think that part of the discussion should be about increasing revenues here when we are dealing with the deficit. I would say that we are not opposed to revenues. We are just opposed to tax increases. And that is the difference.

We believe the way you get more revenues is to promote growth. And that is why we have continued to say that this growth agenda will be very focused on what we can do to increase economic activity, which has the result of increasing revenues. A piece of this agenda will be about tax reform. It will be about making sure that we are competitive so that we can continue to attract entrepreneurs and investment from abroad as well as generate more here domestically.

To that end, some of you joined me in Richmond last week. We had a forum with small business job creators and the message that I heard from them was we need Washington to stop standing in the way of committing capital and increasing job opportunities. We heard a lot on the regulatory front. We heard some on the financial services aftermath in the arena of the Dodd Frank issue.

I was also in Chicago last week talking with individuals who engage in the trading at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Similar to our small business discussion in Richmond, during the discussion in Chicago, an interesting term was used, they said that we need to stop regulatory arbitrage. Which means we need to go from a highly regulated environment into a less regulated environment. And if capital is doing that in a rational way, we are going to see capital fleeing America unless we do something to address the regulatory overreach that has been ongoing in this town for sometime.

Again, we will have some further definition on the growth agenda when we formally unveil it on Thursday. I would like to underscore the fact that the growth agenda is consistent with what we have been doing in committees, whether it has been on the EPA front, the FCC front, or the Energy and Commerce Committee. It is a continuation of our Pledge to America in which we said we are going to be focusing on the economy and jobs.

Also, in regards to the Biden commission, we will go back into meeting tomorrow. I assume we will have two meetings, as is typical from the weeks prior, to engage in the discussion again about how we are going to bring down the deficit and manage down the debt. What we have said, as the Speaker had indicated several weeks ago, it is about trillions, not billions if we are going to be asked by the President to raise the debt ceiling by several trillion dollars. And I go back to the statements I made earlier. The markets are smarter than just our blindly raising the debt limit and going about the normal business of Washington. I think they understand, as the public increasingly does, that we can't keep spending money like this and we have become a debtor nation that loses credibility in terms of our ability to meet our obligations.

So that is why we are insisting as Republicans in the House that we are going to have real cuts, real reforms and not going to accept kicking the can down the road as far as what we could expect if we put in place a process. So it is very important to underscore that point. That is the same message that I have heard in my travels, not only in my district, but when I talked to the folks in the money centers in New York and Chicago. Get it right. Don't fool yourself into thinking that just raising the debt limit blindly is going to improve the situation because it is more risky than actually doing the tough work now.

Lastly, there has been a lot of discussion on the Medicare proposals that we've had in the Ryan budget. What I would say to that is to those who have criticized the proposals in the Ryan budget, where is your point? The bottom line is, the Congressional Budget Office says that within nine years, the trust fund under Medicare Part A will become insolvent. It will collapse. And with that, even the Medicare Trustees, they are a couple of years out further, but they too say that without reforms, these programs are not sustainable.

So right now, the current plan on the other side from the President and Harry Reid and others is we are going to ration care and essentially this thing will go into bankruptcy. That's all we have heard, rationing and bankruptcy from the President and Harry Reid. We have to fix that. That is why, we as Republicans, have taken the position that we are facing facts, and we are attempting to put out there a solution that is a credible plan forward that saves the programs for those who need it, that protects seniors and those nearing retirement, but says to the rest of us, 54 and younger, that these programs have to be reformed if they are going to be around. So with that, I will take questions.

Q: Mr. Leader, I have two foreign policy questions. Number one, I'm curious as to what you would like to hear from Prime Minister Netanyahu tomorrow during the joint session. And, number two, it has been more than 60 days since the United States struck Libya. Congress has not acted in support of that. I wonder whether you think the President is operating outside of his authority under the War Powers Act and whether you think Congress will act affirmatively to say that that is all right, to continue operations?

Mr. Cantor: What I would expect, and hope to hear from Prime Minister Netanyahu, is a statement about the situation on the ground as far as the Middle East is concerned and, obviously, with the Israeli Palestinian conflict. I am hopeful that we will hear an underscoring by him of the danger that Israel faces, as well as U.S. interests in the region, with an alliance between Hamas and Fatah, and the fact that the underlying danger is the fact that you have now a demonstrable entity that seeks to destroy Israel and will deny its right to exist as a Jewish state.

And I believe that will be well received in Congress, and that means that bipartisan support will exist and will result to bolster U.S. support for our only democratic ally in the region and to really sort of set the equation right and say, look, as long as there is no partner for peace in the Middle East, we can't push an ally into a compromising situation.

As far as the other question about Libya, we have the Defense Authorization bill on the floor this week, and we are going to have a robust amendment process. And I would imagine that some of the issues that you ask about, Jonathan, will be discussed in the amendment process, and we will wait to see that unfold.

Q: Mr. Leader, we had a significant amount of tornados yesterday in Missouri. We had flooding in the South, a round of tornados a few weeks ago in Alabama. We hear some mixed things from FEMA. Do you think that there is need? And would there be the support at the same time that you are trying to cut and do a supplemental spending bill as, you know, we are trying to get through these natural disasters?

Mr. Cantor: Again, not having all the details and information that has filtered in from the latest disaster, I can tell you, if there is support for a supplemental, it would be accompanied by support for having pay fors to that supplemental.

Q: Up in New York's 26th district, the Democrat is currently in the lead, according to one poll. There is the third-party candidate, but others are saying Medicare is really the issue that is giving candidate Jane Corwin a difficult time. Are you concerned that the Medicare stand House Republicans have taken is going to actually hurt Republicans in this House race and races going forward?

Mr. Cantor: No. Not at all. This race is about the fact that it's a three-way race. I was in Rochester several weeks ago with our candidate. She is an articulate businesswoman that understands the needs of those of Western New York, focuses on job creation, and she is delivering that message.

She is facing a three way race that has tended to make the race a lot closer than anyone had thought. But, no, I do not think it can be seen as a signal as to the role of the budget reforms that we have proposed, including Medicare.

I know this town loves to take signals from individual races. I think the best signal you can take is the 63 seats that we picked up in November. That was a signal that the American people were tired of the direction being taken by the other side, they were upset about the situation with jobs, and they were upset about government spending. I think those issues are still front and center with the voters and especially those in Western New York.

Q: On Medicare, the Ryan plan is expected to fail in the Senate this week. Chairman Ryan, himself, said yesterday that he is open to compromise as part of the legislative process. But it is hard to see how that would be possible since the plan envisions rolling back the Affordable Care Act. Democrats aren't going to go to that. So I guess my question for you is, do you see a compromise on Medicare coming out of the Biden group discussions?

Mr. Cantor: All I can say is this: everything is on the table in the Biden commission discussions. Ultimately, decisions are going to be made between the Speaker, the President, and those in the Senate. We are engaging in these discussions right now in the Biden commission to really understand where both sides are. There has been a full discussion so far, and I expect it to continue in all areas.

Q: Is it your understanding that the Treasury wants a $2 trillion increase in the debt limit? And if that's the case, do you guys need to seek $2 trillion in cuts? There has been a little bit of confusion about that number.

Mr. Cantor: I think that the Speaker was pretty clear when he said that the cuts and reforms required would result in cuts and reductions in spending, equal to the amount of any request by the Administration to increase the debt ceiling. We would obviously like to see more. We want to see this nation put back on to a positive trajectory. I think that that is where our members are, and where most of the American people are.

Q: But you're talking about that $2 trillion number, in the discussions is that what the Administration is pushing for?

Mr. Cantor: Again, no decisions have been made. The Administration has not made a specific request for the debt ceiling increase amount. What I can tell you is an amount commensurate with the request is something that I think is a prerequisite to getting the votes necessary to make it happen.

Q: Mr. Leader, you said that you're going to be unveiling your growth agenda on Thursday. And without saying, "Stay tuned," can you just give us some idea? Is this, in fact, a jobs bill? If so, how many

Mr. Cantor: How about, details to follow?

Q: Is it a jobs bill? And if it is, how many jobs?

Mr. Cantor: This is a plan for America's job creators. This is a plan to make it easier for entrepreneurs and small businesses and families in America to see a better future through growth. That is what it is about. This has been laid out in some form already, it includes tax reform, it includes an insistence that Washington stop being an adversary, as far as a regulatory role, and start being a partner for small business folks.

Q: Mr. Leader, on timing for the debt limit increase, which is August 2nd, according to Treasury, do you all see what do you think about timing? I would assume that nobody thinks it's a great idea, the markets wouldn't think it's good idea to push this up against the August recess, August 1st, August 2nd. Are you all seeing that the July 4th recess is the realistic deadline to get something passed, and after that people in New York are already saying after July 4th they start to get nervous that you all are getting too close to the brink?

Mr. Cantor: Listen, I don't doubt that the markets may begin to respond if there is nothing happening. But our goal is to make something real happen, not just deal for deal's sake. Because I think that's fooling yourself. We are going to focus our efforts to deliver on reforms and cuts now and not just putting in place, necessarily, a process that the people have to hope Washington can deliver on. Time is up for that.

Q: Should that happen by July 4th?

Mr. Cantor: I think it should happen as soon as possible. But, again, we put our plan out there. We have our plan on the table, as to how we think we can accomplish some reforms. Inherent in our plan is a need for a debt limit increase. But, again, the Administration has dismissed our plan out of hand. So we say to them, the status quo is unacceptable and that, if you accept the status quo, you're calling for bankruptcy of the Medicare program. They need to own that, just as they are attempting to say that we own a plan that is not, maybe, desirable in the way they see it for seniors. We think our plan is desirable. All they own right now is rationing and bankruptcy.

Q: Mr. Cantor, you mentioned in your list of legislation the PATRIOT Act. There has been a lot of discussion in recent days that it might be subject to heavy amendments in the other chamber and so forth. Do you really have the votes at the end of the day to pass the extensions to 2015 and beyond for the PATRIOT Act?

Mr. Cantor: We'll have the votes to pass the Senate bill.

Q: Mr. Cantor, a two-part question. One, were you disappointed that Mitch Daniels decided not to run for President? And, two, is support for the Ryan budget the absolute prerequisite to be the GOP nominee in 2012?

Mr. Cantor: Certainly, I think Mr. Daniels would have been a great candidate. He had his decision to make and made it. I think that our field is a field that still has, you know, a lot of time. I think the candidates who are in the race are strong candidates. You know, it is early still. These campaigns will begin to focus as the primary season nears.

As far as the Ryan budget is concerned, what Paul Ryan is about is real leadership. That is what we believe we are about in this House. House Republicans are the only Republican game in town, if you will, in Washington. And what we have committed to is to lead in order to change the status quo. That is what our commitment was in the Pledge to America. That's what our commitment was when we assumed Majority in January. So, yes, the presidential candidates, I'm looking for them to embrace our formula in the Ryan budget. I'm looking for them to embrace a leadership role that takes the tough positions.

Q: Would you like to see Ryan run?

Mr. Cantor: Sure. I think, again, Paul is about real leadership. Again, I think that that's what the public so desperately wants to do right now, is they want to see a Washington that will lead. They don't want to see individuals that dismiss the current problems as something that we can just sweep under the rug. I mean, these are problems that go to the very existence of so many programs that are important to people. And, yet, somehow the other side continues to castigate us for putting a plan out there that is responsible. Their choice, thus far, has been bankruptcy of these programs and rationing of health care.

Q: Mr. Leader, can you comment on Harry Reid bringing up the Ryan budget, knowing it doesn't have the votes to pass?

Mr. Cantor: What would you like me to comment?

Q: Why do you think he's doing that?

Mr. Cantor: Again, you'd have to ask Mr. Reid as to why he's doing it. But, again, this is our plan. We have said all along, we have to address the problems. And, you know, the other side has just continued to evade any solution. Anytime you even discuss Medicare or any health care entitlement, it is difficult, no question. But we are in serious times, and that is why we believe you have to lead.

Q: Mr. Leader, back on Israel, a lot of the reaction from lawmakers to President Obama's speech on the Middle East was negative the lawmaker reaction was negative. I wondered if you think that Congress is tending to side more with Israel than the President on this question about Israel returning to its '67 borders? And what impact do you think that could have on the Middle East peace process?

Mr. Cantor: Look, it is not about the '67 lines. I addressed the AIPAC conference yesterday afternoon. I talked about a story of a Palestinian woman who was taken to a hospital in Be'er Sheva, Israel, in the Negev desert. She had a need for skin treatment, had burns over half her body. She was treated and then told to come back for the outpatient clinic follow-up. She was then, later, apprehended at a border crossing with a suicide belt on. And her intention was to go blow up the very clinic that saved her life.

That is indicative of Israel's dilemma. It is a culture that persists within the Palestinians and the broader Arab world that reflects their unwillingness to accept Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state. That is the problem, not '67 lines.

And so, when you see and ask, are members going to be siding with that position, I believe there is bipartisan support to side with that position. I think the President is going to hear even more of that. And it is an insistence upon our members to say, the President's got to step up and lead. And just responding to the pressure of the Palestinians and some of their supporters around the world is not leadership. That's not what people in this House and their constituents want to see out of our President.

Q: You said several times that the Democratic plans on Medicare would amount to rationing. The Congressional Budget Office basically said that the Ryan budget will need a voucher that has less purchasing power as you go out into the future and will make many people have to pay higher deductibles or get quality of care that's not as good now. So why isn't that rationing?

Mr. Cantor: What we believe is, if you introduce the concept that people should choose for themselves what's best in terms of their health care, you automatically introduce something new into health care costs which is, choice, and, along with that, just as occurred in the Medicare Part D, you will see an increase in the options for individuals to choose, so competition.

We believe also, just as we have as federal employees, that if you allow for an individual to choose and that individual wants more than what the allowable amount is in the basic program of health care coverage, then the individual should be free to put that additional money in. If he or she can afford to pay for health care more than that which is provided, fine.

But, again, this is consistent with our proposal to counter the ObamaCare bill last year. We said it is through increased competition and choice that gives people the ability to choose the kind of health care they want - not to impose a mandate from Washington - and to have patient-centered care. Automatically, if you introduce that concept, you will see prices come down, you will see an increased involvement by the patient in making his or her decision.

So that's what is underneath our plan. But, again, we say, hold harmless those at retirement or nearing, because they relied on another system. But we believe we are far enough out, for those of us 54 and younger, to have the ability to prepare for this kind of role in terms of health care retirement.

Q: Leader Cantor, earlier you said to Luke that you were encouraging Chairman Ryan to get involved in the presidential race, that you'd like to see him run, looking for leadership. Is there anybody else on the sidelines currently that you are looking to get into this? Are you satisfied with the current field? And, if not, what attributes are you looking for to fill this out?

Mr. Cantor: Look, I'm going to refocus this discussion and say, I believe that our role in the House, again, as Republicans, is to set the bar. It is setting the bar for leadership. It is taking on the tough challenges. It is putting solutions out there, and it is trying to deliver results. That is much different than what the status quo has been in Washington for some time. And it is what the times demand, it is what the people want to see. And it is tough, no doubt about it, it is tough.

But, again, the choice is going to be what we are about in our growth agenda. We have a recommitment to that this week, and what we are about as far as the deficit reductions and the debt management. The choice is going to be, are you for more government and more taxes or are you for more growth and more jobs? That is going to be the choice. So candidates that want to embrace that, all in. We would love to have that discussion and encourage everybody who wants to embrace what it is we're talking about to get in the field.

Q: Would you run?

Mr. Cantor: What was that?

Q: Would you run?

Mr. Cantor: Absolutely not.

Q: And why not, sir?

Mr. Cantor: I have no intention or desire to run. That's why.

Q: Mr. Leader, about the job growth agenda, you know, over the course of this year, you guys have spoken about that issue periodically. How is this different, and why now?

Mr. Cantor: Well, stay tuned, because we are going to what did I say? "Details will follow."

We'll have more details and definition for you as to what this plan is. Again, it is reflective of what we committed to in the Pledge to America. It is what we're committed to, which is to respond to the real dissatisfaction with the situation of unemployment in this country.

In fact, we believe that now is the time to add to the discussion, the other part of this painting, if you will. We are painting a picture of an economy that has a federal government that is living within its means, which has been the first five months of this year, but is also an economy that is focused on growing so that people can be somewhat secure that they are going to have more jobs, not less, for their kids and themselves. We also say, to those of you who ask every day: what about revenues? Yes, we are for more revenue, we are just not for tax increases.

So we will lay out a prescription there as to how we believe, consistent with CBO's predictions. CBO says, for any increase over the baseline assumption in growth, which I think is 2 1/2 percent, you can have trillions of dollars of additional revenues in a 10 year period, which tend to help us manage down the deficit and help us grow, which means people can get back to work. So it's a double benefit here. You promote growth, you help manage the deficit down, and you get people back to work. And that is the most important thing that people are looking for right now, is getting a job.

Q: Mr. Cantor, I would like to know who you were talking to at the money centers, and what questions were in fact

Mr. Cantor: I'm sure they would love for you to –

Q: I've talked to some of them, so I know who some of these people are. But I would like to know, also, what question are you putting to them?

Mr. Cantor: As I have said, I have met with the folks at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange last week. I heard from them the urgency that they feel the United States needs to get back in the game as far as competitiveness is concerned.

I was with the folks at the New York Stock Exchange the week before. And they, too, understand, obviously, going through what they are, there is global competition for exchanges and there is global competition to attract capital. And attracting investment means more jobs for us.

So what I'm taking from the message is: get the posture straight for regulatory outlook, get that straight, as far as why should capital flow here; and, at the same time, get straight on your fiscal picture. Get straight on the fact that there is some leadership in Washington that's actually willing to take the tough positions and get things done, so you don't have this veil of uncertainty hanging over the economy with this outstanding debt that some are beginning to question whether we're going to be able to live up to. That's the message I'm hearing.

Thank you very much.

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