Monday, November 14, 2011
Mr. Cantor: Welcome back. Good afternoon. I know we haven't seen each other in a while, so how many have missed this? Look, today we have a special guest here with us, I think you can tell by the cameras and the presence of Lesley Stahl, 60 Minutes is filming for a show that will air in the next month or so. So that is what all that is about. So we are all on national TV. So take that for what it is worth.
This week obviously most eyes are going to be on the Joint Select Committee and their desire to reach an outcome by next week, November 23rd. Having served in the Biden talks, I know the kind of pressure that they are under and I'm not going to weigh in on potential reported deals and offers while they are still at work, because I know how difficult that could be. So I know you've got a lot of questions, but I'm not going to speak about their work other than to say that I hope that they continue to do the work and remain hopeful that they will come to an agreement by the November 23rd deadline.
Last week, I was fortunate enough to travel not only to my district, but also to Texas. We visited both Texas A&M University, as well as Rice University, and took the opportunity yet again to bring a message of free markets and of a stronger economy to the student population at both of those institutions. My take was these young people at these colleges are as concerned as anyone about the economy. Obviously, those working their way towards graduation this year want to know that they have a job when they get out of school. There was a lot of discussion because we allowed for ample time of questions about whether they were going to see the same kind of opportunities as their parents had; frankly, questions about what is going on in Washington; questions about things that seem perhaps to be unfair in terms of the playing field and creating that equal opportunity for them and whether they were going to have a fair shot when they got out of school to earn their success. That was the basic discussion that ensued in both Houston and in College Station.
There is no question they are frustrated. People continue to be frustrated in my district, as in the others that I visited. That is because 14 million people remain out of work in this country. There is a continued lag in the housing sector. You hear that all over. You hear the fact that there is just not any optimism on the part of small business, and people are seeing the visible signs of the lack of growth in their communities in this country and expecting us to do something about it.
Now, I have said all along and most notably right after the Labor Day recess, that we were interested in the House - not in the all-or-nothing approach that the President put forward with his jobs bill - but instead trying to set aside differences and try to find the areas we can work together on. That has been consistently what we are trying to do, trying to ratchet down the rhetoric and the hyperbole so we can actually do something to help get people back to work, and help provide the necessary hope for the hard working American taxpayers.
Now, this week's agenda is consistent with that mode of operation. We want to work with the other side, we want to give the President some of the things that were in his jobs bill that are also consistent with the Job Creators Agenda we have been working on since early Spring. This week, we are going to move forward with the 3 percent withholding bill that will come back from the Senate. My hope is that bill will pass, be sent to the President's desk for his signature and yet again like the trade bills - as well as what I hope will be successes with some of the other legislation that we have passed lately - be signed into law. That bill also will help boost job opportunities for veterans, as we just observed Veterans Day on Friday. We also have several suspensions, as well as the completion of the Coast Guard Authorization Bill. We will bring up the NRA Reciprocity Bill. We will also in the middle of the week have the minibus CR and finally at the end of the week, the consideration of a Balanced Budget Amendment. As you know, we look forward to hopefully a good debate on that and a bipartisan vote when that bill comes to the floor most likely on Friday. With that, I'm happy to answer any questions.
Q: Leader Cantor, today I wanted to ask you about what the President said when he said that the joint committee should bite the bullet, do what needs to be done because the math won't change. Are bullets more appetizing than apples? We've talked about bullets and apples.
Mr. Cantor: I don't want to be opining as to bullets or apples. What I can tell you is what I said before, I'm not going to opine about their work, about reported deals. Again, I served on the Biden talks. I know how difficult it is and how much pressure they are under. We have got to let them do their work. I'm hopeful that there will be a good result come the November 23rd deadline.
Q: On that point, while you're not going to opine on what they are discussing
Mr. Cantor: Bullets or apples.
Q: Bullets or apples or carrots. Whatever you want. They are largely stuck on the issues that have held up many of these discussions before, the issue of revenue, the issue of entitlements. A lot of the focus now is determining if this committee does not succeed, what should be done then? Because there are 9 days left. If they don't succeed, what are the options?
Mr. Cantor: I'm not going to answer any hypotheticals about their work. What I'm telling you is I am hopeful that they are going to complete their work and make the November 23rd deadline.
Q: This is not a hypothetical. Do you endorse them sticking to the law, which is not turning off the sequester? You all have been very clear about that.
Mr. Cantor: Again, I'm hopeful that they will arrive at a deal and that a sequester will not be applicable.
Q: Mr. Cantor, Speaker Boehner said that he felt he himself personally was morally bound to the cuts that would come into effect with the sequester. Do you, Eric Cantor, feel morally bound to sequester cuts that would be –
Mr. Cantor: This is number four. Again, I'm not going to comment. I don't think the sequester will be applicable because I believe that they will reach an agreement by the deadline.
Q: Let’s try it this way.
Mr. Cantor: Five.
Q: No. I mean, you're in charge of the committees. We are going into the next year where all of the members of the House are up for re election, presidential election, reforming the tax code and entitlements. Is that something that you think could be done in the committee process next year?
Mr. Cantor: Okay. Separate and apart from anything that the Joint Select Committee is doing, I can tell you my views on comprehensive tax reform, but as far as the scheduling of tax reform and the indirect relationship with the operation of the Joint Select Committee, I'm not going to answer that. That is number six. I am willing to predict it will take six times.
Q: On the balanced budget amendment do you expect united Republican support given that many conservatives wanted a stronger BBA? And if it fails as expected because a few certain events have set back the movement that has been, you know, 2 decades or more in the making for a balanced budget?
Mr. Cantor: First I would say this. You know, the process was set up to be member driven. There was a great opportunity for all the members to weigh in. We had a big conference two weeks ago. The Whip's Office has gone through their processes of seeking member input and overwhelmingly members feel that the version we are bringing to the floor is the one that they would like to see. Personally, if I had my druthers, I would like to see us vote on a stronger BBA. So I hope that this passes. And I will be voting for it because I do think ultimately the biggest check we can put on government's unbridled spending is a forced balanced budget amendment like most states have.
Q: Leader Cantor, several weeks ago, President Obama erected a standard for the supercommittee. He said that he would veto a plan that did not match entitlement cuts to new revenues taken from wealthy Americans. Is that framework is that standard something that can pass the House?
Mr. Cantor: Again, I'm not going to opine as to suggestions, hypotheticals, reports about workings in the committee. I want them to do their work. I think they are perfectly capable of doing it without added pressure from the outside.
Q: When do you anticipate a transportation bill maybe on the House floor. They are working on, you know, some pay fors for that. Will that be, like, just after Thanksgiving? And secondly, the CR that is going to come up, is this the last CR of 2011?
Mr. Cantor: As far as the transportation bill is concerned, we are currently working through seeking scoring on additional revenue sources. Our desire is to provide some certainty in the area of infrastructure. The country has gone for too long without a long term plan so that states, localities, contractors can't invest the necessary capital so that we can see the infrastructure needs of the country met. We are hoping to bring a bill forward as soon as that process is done to provide a little bit more long term scenario. And your other question was about -
Q: Whether this is the last CR of 2011.
Mr. Cantor: Well, I certainly hope that this is the last CR. And we will see. And as you know, the new CR will take us through December 16th.
Q: As you traveled the country, you have met with some protesters and threats of protest. Do you take that personally? Do you feel that is a statement about you and your leadership or do you feel it is about this institution?
Mr. Cantor: You know, I think there is frustration generally across the country. It is palpable for sure, but I think the frustration needs to be met by us with constructive movement towards a positive end. What we are trying to do is say this, we are not going to agree on everything. What we can agree on is this economy is not growing fast enough. You know, peoples' incomes are not growing fast enough. What I say when I speak to these students is income mobility needs to be advanced in this country. We need to be focused on figuring out how to increase income mobility. Because there is no question, we have got wealth disparity in this country and the best way towards trying to close that gap is to get more people back to work and increasing that income mobility. And so that would be I think much of what is going on out there right now. It is all because there are not enough jobs. It is all because this economy is not growing quickly enough. It is all because people don't see the opportunity for themselves because of the dismal economic outlook and we are trying to address that.
Q: Mr. Leader, we are coming up on the end of the year and the physicians who are paid under Medicare still need to have severe cuts reversed, otherwise known as the doc fix. And I was wondering what kind of movement is there for a doc fix for this year? And also are you looking at more longer term plans to kind of scrap the formula that makes us keep coming back every year for this?
Mr. Cantor: Separate and apart from saying anything about what is going on in that committee or not, my prediction is we will address the proposed cliff in the SGR. And yes, I have recently met with some of our physician members in the House and look forward to coming up with a long term fix. But again, that would be work we still have to do.
Q: Without getting into the details of the joint committee, as you're probably aware, there are some conservatives both in Congress and outside of Congress who are raising questions and objections to some of the proposals of the joint committee. Would you like to have them and others hold off and is it possible to get people to keep quiet pending outcome of the joint committee?
Mr. Cantor: I'm just going to keep quiet. I don't know about them, whether it is even worth my even saying so.
Q: Let me try again on the supercommittee if I could in a different way.
Mr. Cantor: Number eight.
Q: To what extent do you return here after the recess? Have you had a chance to talk with your Republican colleagues on the panel if not to discuss the panels of the plan, at least get a sense from them whether they feel they are any closer to a final agreement? Are they more confident today? Are you more confident than perhaps you were when you left
Mr. Cantor: All I'm going to say is you heard some of them on the TV shows yesterday morning saying that they remain hopeful, but there is work yet to be done.
Q: Mr. Leader, 60 Minutes had a piece on last night about insider trading in Congress. Do you support the STOCK Act? And if not, why not?
Mr. Cantor: I'm not familiar with the details of the STOCK Act, but I know it was mentioned in the program last night. My sense is it requires more disclosure. I am for increased disclosure. If there is any sense of impropriety or any appearance of that, we should take extra steps to make sure the public's cynicism is addressed. We are not here to be hiding anything. And I have always been - when it comes to either financial disclosures or campaign finance disclosures - very supportive of full disclosure as much as possible, so that the public can continue to make their decisions on a full airing of the facts.
Q: I wonder if you can talk about the pressure that you are or are not under from the markets about this deal in the supercommittee? Whether businessmen, bankers, CEOs around the country are leaning on you and other members of Congress to get a deal for fear of how it will affect the markets?
Mr. Cantor: Again, the markets are different sometimes than small business people. Those who are students of the macroeconomic situation in the markets would say they would like to see a stronger economy. They would like to see growth return and that adds revenues, it helps manage down the debt and deficit. That's what’s in common with what I hear from small businesses who we know have got to step up and kick in some more job creation. So everyone would like to see a more positive economic outlook. That is for sure. So what I think that we can do to best serve the markets and the people that send us here is to set reasonable expectations, things that we can accomplish together, stay away from the hyperbole and making promises that we can't keep, deliver on the statutory charge of at least $1.2 trillion so that we can continue focusing on this economy.
Q: Are you under pressure to get a deal? Are they saying, oh, my God, if you don't get a deal, we will have our ratings drop again, the markets all that stuff.
Mr. Cantor: There are differing opinions about whether there will be downgrades or not. I think everybody wants to see some results here in Washington. I mean, that is what the frustration has become. And what we are saying is in the House, we want to try to work on things that all of us can agree on. Set aside the differences, put these bills across the floor that are focused on job creation and focused on helping small businesses because that is what it is about.
Q: Would disclosure be sufficient or should members of Congress have to live under the same insider trading laws that people on Wall Street do?
Mr. Cantor: Again, I'm not as familiar with what triggers insider trading and the specifics of the laws. What I can tell you is, we are accountable to our constituents and we should be providing the kinds of information that would satisfy any kind of reasonable perception of impropriety. I don’t think many members actively trade in their portfolios. I don't. So if full disclosure can satisfy some of the questions, I think absolutely we should put that in place.
Q: Mr. Cantor, on the appropriation the CR coming out this week, looking forward you said you want this to be the last one. I'm wondering to what extent are some of the policy riders that were included especially on the EPA and the Interior? At what point are those a sticking point in negotiations with the Senate and to what extent are House Republicans willing to, you know, back off
Mr. Cantor: Again, there are going to be those that are real sticking points and there will be those that I think both sides can accept. And that is sort of what is going on, as you can imagine, in the discussions surrounding the appropriations process as we move towards getting this so-called minibus passed and getting on to the next one.
Q: Taxes have been a stumbling block in a lot of these issues. And some members have indicated they want to get their name away from the Grover Norquist pledge and they don't want to be bound to that. Do you see this influence in the Republican Party waning a little bit and some cracks sort of in this armor? Secondly, is it such a bad thing if the supercommittee fails?
Mr. Cantor: First question, it is not about Grover Norquist. It is about commitments that people make to the electorate that they represent, to the people that sent them here. That is what it is about. So again, your words should be good to your constituents and that is what we are dealing with here. As far as the supercommittee is concerned, yet again, I am not going to be opining as to any reports, hypotheticals or anything connected with their work. I want them to do their work without added pressure from me.
Q: Mr. Leader, over the summer, the Speaker was talking about an $800 billion revenue piece. Do you believe that that would have violated the Americans for Tax Reform pledge? And then secondly, how can you bring up the balanced budget amendment in the way you are and not giving the members an opportunity to vote on the amendment as a super majority?
Mr. Cantor: First of all, to the first question, same answer. I think we are now at about a dozen. I'm not going to respond to anything that is connected to the work of the Joint Select Committee. I want them to do their work. As far as the BBA, I think I responded to the question earlier, that the reason why is that we set out a process to be member driven. There were a lot of meetings that took place at the direction of Bob Goodlatte and Mike Pence, with the support of the Whip Office, and member discussion sessions throughout the Fall, culminating in a conference two weeks ago, as well as the Whip Office engaging in its process of determining where the members are. Overwhelmingly, the members want the version that is being put on the floor this time.
Q: In '95, you voted on both. You voted on the stronger one first and then it failed and then you passed the second one. So is there some sort of tactical reason here as to why they are structuring it the way it is?
Mr. Cantor: No, there is not. It is being good to the word of the members. It was a collective decision, put to the members. We were going to listen to them and in '95, as you recall, it was this investigation that passed the House overwhelmingly with 300 yes votes to 132. And I remind you that there were 72 Democrats then that voted for this version of the BBA. And I think part of what is driving our members towards this version is the fact that there are many Democrats still here serving that actually voted for this version. So obviously it would be interesting to see how those members, like Jim Clyburn and Steny Hoyer and others, will vote this week on this version and whether there is a true commitment to moving towards a balanced budget amendment.
Q: Steny Hoyer says he is not going to vote for it because he feels that he cannot trust Republicans to put aside ideology on tax increases and things like that, breaking the budget if it is necessary in a time of war. Can you respond to that?
Mr. Cantor: I'm not too sure how that is even relevant. This is the same version that he voted yes on before and we certainly hope to have his support this time.
Q: Mr. Cantor, earlier you mentioned Congress hoped that the doc fix would result at the end of the year. Do you have a similar hope for the other outstanding tax issues, the AMT, the business extenders, et cetera?
Mr. Cantor: Again, without delving into that area of the larger discussion around here about the fiscal picture, yes, I'm hopeful. But we will see what happens.
Q: Sir, could I get you to opine on another hypothetical? The Supreme Court is going to take up the health care case they have ruled today which means they are probably go to have a hearing in the spring and a decision in June. How big a deal does that become in the congressional elections and the presidential election next fall? In other words, can we go as far as to see this could be a referendum on health care?
Mr. Cantor: As you know, we Republicans believe strongly we ought to repeal ObamaCare. And so the fact that the Court is taking this question up I think is a positive signal that there are legitimate concerns surrounding the constitutional aspects of mandating that individuals purchase health care insurance and purchase it according to Washington's guidelines. So I do think it is obviously going to be very relevant.
Q: On the CR, there is word that some of the Tea Party Republicans, the more conservative Republicans are a little restive and think that there should be even more spending cuts even though there is a deal. Could this thing not be a slam dunk Friday? Is there going to be a problem?
Mr. Cantor: I'm hoping for a positive vote in a bipartisan way. And as you suggested, there was a deal that was struck August 2nd. Most of us would say that deal certainly was nowhere near as much spending reduction as we had hoped, but it was a deal that allowed us to move forward and I hope that we can abide by that deal and move forward in a bipartisan way.
Q: Mr. Cantor, when you say in a bipartisan way, have you spoken with Mr. Hoyer about getting Democratic support?
Mr. Cantor: I speak with Steny Hoyer on a regular basis and he knows my commitment to want to uphold the deal that was agreed to August 2nd.
Q: Do you think with the benefit of hindsight, that negotiators over the summer should have given the supercommittee more time and possibly should have structured the sequester differently, that didn't have as many defense cuts as it is turning into a major reason that some Republicans are calling for a way out of the sequester?
Mr. Cantor: Again, I remain very hopeful that there will be an outcome in nine days from now. I don't think the sequester will be relevant.
Q: Leader Cantor, you were part of the Biden group. You were part of the group that put together the Budget Control Act. What is the extent of your contribution to the negotiations that are going on now? Are you part of any meetings? Have you been meeting with any of the members of the supercommittee?
Mr. Cantor: Listen, I engage in discussion, in meetings, in phone conversations all the time around here. So I have been kept abreast and I'm fully supportive of what the Speaker's appointees on our Joint Select Committee are trying to do and hopeful that a result will come out next week.
Q: The President is going to Asia this week. And there is a renewed focus on the China currency issue. Where do things stand on the Senate bill right now? Are you considering at all not bringing that to the floor?
Mr. Cantor: What I have said all along is that we have got a lot of work to do with our economy for sure. Our manufacturers are the ones that are upset when they see alleged unfair trade practices being engaged in by our foreign competitors. That is the root of the objection to what is going on with China. This is a trade issue. I have said from day one that the Administration needs to step up. We haven't heard from them on that bill. Where is the Trade Rep? They are the ones that are on the front lines of our trade negotiations, they are the ones with the ongoing daily interaction. And I believe that there are unintended consequences to that bill. But clearly, there is a situation we have to be dealing with as far as our manufacturers are concerned. But all the while, I have said this. Our economy is three times as big as China's. We have plenty of things that we can do to try to make our environment in this country more conducive to investment and manufacturing for small businesses to get up off sort of the stagnant lane and start growing again. That's what we are trying to do with the jobs agenda.
Q: Leader Cantor, you spoke about your focus on jobs. So why this week did you schedule a vote on the concealed carry reciprocity bill?
Mr. Cantor: This is something we have always been supportive of. We are supportive of Second Amendment rights in the Majority. And we will do this as we take up the 3 percent withholding bill, as we take up the balanced budget amendment, as we take up the bills that carry through on the deal in reducing spending on August 2nd.
Q: Leader Cantor, another aspect of the 60 Minutes broadcast was Leader Pelosi's husband participated in an IPO at a time when Congress was considering credit card legislation. Do you think members should refrain from either they or their spouses participating in such deals when there is legislation pending that might affect that investment?
Mr. Cantor: Again, I'm not familiar with that investment. I'm not familiar with the timing or the suggested timing of it. All I can tell you is, we should be held to a higher standard. There should be full disclosure in a timely manner if things are ongoing on the Hill that may or may not raise to the level of at least a perception problem. So, again, I would come down on the side of more disclosure is good.
Q: Doesn't the BBA also include a super majority for raising the debt ceiling? Wouldn't that super majority make it impossible to reach the kind of deal you have got to reach on August 2, a compromise?
Mr. Cantor: All I can say is, the balanced budget amendment thrust is to ensure that this government lives within its means and that Washington lives like most Americans do in their households and their businesses, and that is they don't continue to spend money they don't have because they can't. That is the spirit of the balanced budget amendment and that is why we are bringing it forward. We believe it is the ultimate check on unbridled spending, the way that the overwhelming number of states have.
Thank you very much.