Transcript: Majority Leader Cantor's Pen & Pad
October 3, 2011
Contact: Doug Heye, Megan Whittemore
202-225-4000

Monday, October 3, 2011

Mr. Cantor: Good afternoon. Welcome back. I hope everyone had a restful week, because it will be a busy week for us here in the House. As you know, on the floor we are expecting to consider a CR that will take us through November 18th. In addition to that, we have got two bills to delay the job-destroying regulations, Cement MACT and Boiler MACT, that we will be taking up this week as well.

Certainly, I think our Members, when they went home to their districts last week, heard again the fact that too many people are out of work. There is not a lot of feeling of confidence that the economy is getting any better. The fact that last month zero jobs were created leaves everyone hopeful, perhaps, that this Friday's jobs report will be a little better. But it’s clear to me - because everywhere I go in my district and around the country - small businesses come up to me and talk about how difficult it is for them to continue to do business. For those people thinking about starting a new business, it is almost a nonstarter. It is so difficult to conceive of people taking a risk and putting their capital to work given the current environment. And I hear over and over again one of the biggest problems is the harm that government is doing to the creation of new businesses, or the successful operation, of small businesses.

I have heard, as I know our Members have throughout the country, that the threat of the new EPA regulations that we are going to be dealing with on the floor this week are adding to the uncertainty around the economy. It is making it harder for job creators to hire more people, to invest and expand in their business. And that is why, again, in the House we are very focused on the agenda that we put forward and announced earlier last month.

You know, we are going to continue to try and help small businesses. The question is, is the Senate going to join us? The question is, what is the Senate doing? There is clearly a sense there is a do-nothing Senate, as we continue to send bills over to try and improve the environment for small businesses.

As far as the President is concerned, clearly, as I said earlier in this room several weeks ago, it seems as if the President is in full campaign mode. I hear that he may be coming back to Virginia and I think that all of the folks who live in the Commonwealth will welcome him once again. And as I said to the constituents that I represent several weeks ago when the President was in Richmond, we are going to continue to look for ways to find common areas that we can improve the economy on together. And there are several areas I think that I would like to announce today that we are going to move forward on, and frankly are able to do so much quicker than the Democratic controlled Senate as far as the President's job bills are concerned.

Now, the President continues to say, pass my bill in its entirety. As I have said from the outset, the all or nothing approach is just unacceptable. And I think from a purely practical standpoint, the President's got some whipping to do on his own side of the aisle. Clearly, I think comments made by Democrats on both the House and Senate side indicated they have problems with the President's bill.

But the President has my word that over the next month we will make permanent the 3 percent withholding provision from his American Jobs Act. We will pass several other bills, including the three long-awaited free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea. We will repeal onerous regulations that are bogging down businesses in uncertainty that he has mentioned himself. And we will pass legislation out of the Financial Services Committee to help increase small business owners' access to capital, including a bill by the Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy. All of these things the President has spoken about represent areas of commonality where we can boost economic growth and produce an environment for job creation. That is what the goal is here, and that is where we are moving forward and hoping the President will join us in this good faith effort.

I believe it would be a lot more helpful for the President to focus on areas of commonality rather than targeting House Republicans through campaign style tactics. And perhaps he can start compromising with us. We are ready to work together.

Last week, the President said that America has grown a little soft, and I just respond to that and say to the President, with all due respect, I disagree. America is the greatest nation in the world. We are really the birthplace of game changing innovations that have really changed the world.

Just last week I was with two of my colleagues, Paul Ryan and Kevin McCarthy, at Facebook and holding a town hall online, engaged in the conversation, listening, talking with folks throughout the world, if you will, at the Facebook headquarters about the direction we need to take. Again, the innovation that came from that company is the kind of innovation that we need more of. You know, a lot of us believe that America still is the best country in the world, that it is a place for us and everyone who has the blessing to live here to go about earning his or her own success. And it is where the best and the brightest come to be educated, and to take a risk, and to seek the opportunity that they have only dreamed of.

The real issue here is the Obama Administration policies have taken away from that, and clearly, these policies have made it harder for people to succeed, to earn that success. You know, examples like the ObamaCare bill is providing tremendous strain and costs on small businesses. The Dodd Frank bill is getting in the way of small businesses' access to capital, individuals who need it in the middle class, making it harder and harder for them to live and to operate with the kind of regulations that are following up to this type of legislation.

The Administration's continued reluctance to seriously deal with the debt problem, again, has made it harder for people, for investors, for entrepreneurs to grow in this country. And the constant desire and statements from the White House that it wants to raise taxes, all of that has really damaged the ability for entrepreneurs and individuals to earn that success. And that is what we are trying to say to the President: Stop with the job killing policies. We want to work together to try and do something positive for this country.

So our country is not soft, Mr. President. Our country is being paralyzed by Washington overregulation and a "Washington knows best" mentality coming from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

With that, I am delighted to answer any questions.

Q: He said he is going to talk the President said he is going to talk to congressional leadership about moving the whole bill. You control the floor. Is that going to happen?

Mr. Cantor: No. You know, this all or nothing approach is unreasonable. I would say from a practical side, he has got problems on his own side of the aisle with provisions in the bill that Democratic Members disagree with. There are many issues that I have listed here that we can work together on. So instead of continuing to maintain this sort of campaign posture, let's do something to work together.

Q: Mr. Cantor, have you had any signal from the President when he will submit the free trade agreements? And how will you deal with trade adjustment assistance? Will it go first?

Mr. Cantor: Again, there will be an announcement forthcoming on that. As I indicated just now, we intend to move on those three bills.

Q: Will TAA be part of the moving?

Mr. Cantor: Again, there will be an announcement as far as that is concerned, Rich, but we intend to address this and hopefully put a win on the board for the people of this country.

Q: The Senate is expected tonight to move forward with this yuan bill. Is this an approach that you support? And will you move the bill forward as soon as it gets over here?

Mr. Cantor: Again, I am watching what the Senate is doing. I am curious as to where the White House is on that. I have not seen a SAP that has been issued yet. And, you know, just really interested to hear what impact that move will have, and if there are any unintended consequences that may result. But I am certainly watching that.

Q: One other question on TAA. Will you be supporting the TAA agreement that came out of the Senate?

Mr. Cantor: Again, Rich, there will be an announcement on all that coming shortly.

Q: Leader Cantor, do you envision any issues with passing the CR tomorrow?

Mr. Cantor: Do I think there is going to be any issues?

Q: There is always a question of we are not there until we are there in terms of the votes and

Mr. Cantor: Listen, I am looking forward to hopefully having a successful vote on that. This was an issue that was agreed upon in the debt ceiling agreement, with the levels of spending set. Hopefully, we can certainly avoid any kind of shutdown talk this time, get it done, and continue along our mission to try and change the way that spending occurs in this town.

Q: Leader Cantor, are there other elements of the President's job proposal package that the House will vote on other than the 3 percent withholding you mentioned?

Mr. Cantor: Again, I spoke about the trade bills. There has been numerous mentions of regulatory rollback and reform that the President at least gave lip service to. We are hopeful that he joins us in that effort.

Again, everything that I hear anecdotally going around this country is that it is too difficult for small businesses to operate - government regulations are in the way. Let's knock some sense back into that regulation so that we can see some growth in the economy. If the President is true to his word, hopefully he will work with us on that and come off of this all or nothing approach that frankly is unreasonable and actually unfeasible as far as getting the job done here.

Q: Mr. Cantor, last week there was reports about whether Republicans in the House are sort of drawing their position in terms of the budget agreement that will need to happen for the rest of fiscal year 2012 that is going to happen hopefully by November 18. A lot of policy drivers are attached to that, such as defunding NPR is one. Do you foresee those policy riders being important as we head into that debate?

Mr. Cantor: Luke, all I will say is there is a lot of work being done by the appropriators right now. We are trying to fashion a package that will reflect sort of our commitment to the limited government that we believe in, and most certainly trying to address the spending issue as per the agreement that we came to with the other side.

Q: The FEMA Disaster Relief Fund is set to run out of cash potentially by Christmas. If it needs more money, will that need to be offset somehow?

Mr. Cantor: Well, again, we will wait for the White House to tell us whether there is going to be a need for more money. As we have talked about in this room before, the construct of how we are going forward with spending for FEMA was set forward in the debt ceiling agreement that we came to in August, and we have to wait to hear from the White House whether there is going to be a need for more money.

Q: If there is a need for more money, would it require offsets to move through your House?

Mr. Cantor: Again, there is a construct that has been put in place. As you know, budgeting for up to the 10 year average has been set. And so that money is within the budgeting construct. Over and above that 10 year average, the White House is going to have to tell us whether the emergency designation is required over and above the 10 year average.

Q: Can you weigh in on the closed door nature of the Super Committee's discussions?

Mr. Cantor: On the Super Committee's discussions? I can tell you, having served in the Biden discussions as I did, it is probably not helpful for anyone to weigh in right now, and allow them to do their job. Obviously time is continuing to go forward here, and I have every bit of confidence that the appointees the Speaker has made onto that committee are going to be able do the job and deliver a win so that perhaps the public can see that we can get something done as we set aside the big differences we have got and try to narrow the focus on what we can do together.

Q: Just to follow up on the China currency bill in the Senate. Are you saying there are no plans to bring it up in the House? And what are your concerns about you mentioned unintended consequences. What are the unintended consequences?

Mr. Cantor: Again, I am curious as to where the Administration is on this. I mean, obviously, they are the ones, with USTR and others, dealing with the trade situation with China, the impact that an escalation may have on consumer prices and the rest.

And look, Janet, we are an economy that is three times the size of China's. We got a lot of work to do here ourselves. I am not saying that there isn't something necessary right now, because manufacturers in this country are hurting. And if there are unfair practices going on, we should look to our Trade Representative and the Administration to address those.

I am curious as to what the Administration's policy is on this particular bill, since they are on the front lines of the trade relationship. But I would say we have got a lot of work to do here as far as our regulatory posture is concerned, the competitiveness of our tax structure, as we still maintain an economy that is three times as large as China's.

Q: Mr. Leader, you signed a letter with other Republican leaders urging the Fed not to take more action to ease monetary conditions, and that advice was in the main rejected or ignored. How do you feel that Chairman Bernanke is doing? Do you still have confidence in him as Fed Chairman?

Mr. Cantor: Listen, I met with Chairman Bernanke not this year, but one on one prior to that, and certainly a very bright man. He has got a tough job. And, you know, we are all looking to see that he is successful and that we can get this economy turned around.

Q: Mr. Cantor, you voted against the currency bill last year when the Democrats were in charge. I just wonder if you are still personally opposed to currency legislation?

Mr. Cantor: Again, I am waiting to see what the posture is of the Administration, watching to see what the Senate does, and want to know more about what the Administration thinks, perhaps maybe the unintended consequences of a move like that on our economy.

Q: Mr. Cantor, you have had Senate Republicans who have voted "no" on several different CRs. People will want to vote "no" again on the CR tomorrow. Is this a failure on your part, is this a weakness on your part that you have Republicans who will vote "no" even when the consequence is a government shutdown?

Mr. Cantor: Listen, everyone comes here with their constituents' interests in mind. And as far as the spending situation is concerned, many of us feel that we could have done better. But things are what they are in Washington. Republicans control the House, but the Democrats and those of a different opinion control the Senate and the White House. So right now, the job before us is to try and reach agreement where we can so that we can continue to put a priority on bringing the economy back. So I think that we will, as I said before, have a successful vote on the floor this week and get beyond any kind of shutdown talk.

Q: On the jobs bill, what you call the all or nothing jobs bill, as you go down the menu and choose the things that you feel are areas of common agreement, the withholding tax, trade agreements, picking and choosing just the areas where you and the White House can get along, which admittedly are few, are you concerned that the end result is a jobs plan that doesn't have the impact to actually work to move the needle down? I mean, if all you are hunting for is the areas where a priori you know you can agree, is that enough to actually make a dent in jobs?

Mr. Cantor: Look, I think that at this point Washington has become so dysfunctional that we have got to start focusing on the incremental progress we can make. Both sides have their desire to do the big, bold things. The problem is they are just vastly different. We believe that we can deal with the entitlement problem, and should. We believe that we can and should deal with the complexity in the tax code so that we can make America more competitive and get business going again. The other side has completely different views towards that. I think we have seen that. We have seen enough of a divide. And that is why I say that if nothing else, we should certainly focus on trying to put some wins on the board, stop magnifying the differences, try and focus on the commonality.

The President himself has said that some of the intractable differences, whether they be philosophical or what have you, may be left for the election. Meanwhile, you have got the middle class and small businesses in this country who need some good news right now. That is what we are trying to focus on.

Q: Can you comment on weekend reports that Congress froze $200 million in aid to the Palestinians in retaliation for the statehood bid?

Mr. Cantor: That Congress did what?

Q: Froze $200 million in aid to the Palestinians in response or retaliation for the statehood bid.

Mr. Cantor: I am uninformed as to that definitive statement right now. Obviously, the question of Palestinian funding will be front and center again going forward. I think many of us are very troubled by the unilateral move by the Palestinian Authority, by Mr. Abbas' intent to take his effort to the United Nations. I very much am opposed to that, and feel that the only progress that can be made is through direct negotiations with the Israelis and the Palestinians. As far as I am concerned, Israel is an extremely important strategic ally of ours in the Middle East, and we need to put first the security of that ally of ours, as that ally fights the same war that we do in the increasing trouble that is on the ground in the Middle East.

Q: Leader Cantor, you came back from August recess and the debt limit fight with a much more conciliatory tone, as did many House Republicans. You promised that there would not be the same sort of threat of the government shutdown with the latest CR. But once again at the very end, there were many barriers, and when the House left town, there was a lot of drama. You know, and that doesn't send a signal that you guys said you were trying to send to businesses, that Congress actually can get their work done. How are you going to avoid the same scenario on November 18?

Mr. Cantor: Jill, we are going to continue to conduct ourselves with the thinking that we want to find common areas that are productive to work with this President on. And we continue to say it, I have said it since I have come back, as you have rightly said, I think the country and all of us have seen where the divide is. No productivity can come from focusing on the divide. So let's set that aside, and try and transcend the differences, and see if we can do some good for the middle class of this country, the small businesses, and get the economy going again.

Q: Mr. Leader, following up on that, the Labor and HHS bill that was released includes several provisions that Democrats made clear they made clear 6 months ago that they were adamantly opposed to. How does that square with what you are saying about let's focus on the areas of common ground? And is that an indication that you are preparing for another, you know, all out brawl in 6 weeks over spending?

Mr. Cantor: There is no question that, you know, we have demonstrated here in the House Majority that we are really interested in changing the way that things are done here. We are very interested in rolling back or curbing the appetite for spending. I mean, all of you got to write that, right? And it is also fairly obvious the other side is not interested in doing that.

We did manage, in the debt ceiling agreement, to actually put, if you will, a down payment on our efforts to say that we did reduce spending some, nowhere near as much as what the problem warrants, but it is all in the process of trying to get to where we want to go.

It is not that we are going to give up on what we believe, but I think that the healthy attitude going forward is to say, fine, accept the differences, let's try and reach commonality where we can. Trade bills, 3 percent withholding, rollback of regulation, access to capital for small businesses; these are all things that are inherent in the President's American Jobs Act and are things we can do and work on together. It is up to the President to say, okay, fine, I am going to come off of my all or nothing insistence, since it is, you know, really disconnected to the reality of the vote count even on his side of the aisle.

Q: On the 3 percent withholding repeal, I am wondering if you have identified an offset for that yet, and if you are going to insist on it being offset?

Mr. Cantor: Again, I think you will see as the bill comes forward, this is a new policy that has continued to be extended and extended and will go into effect a year from January, something that is harmful to business conducting business with anybody on any city, state, or federal level. And so again, we will get back to you as far as a pay for is concerned. I think you will see the way we'll go forward.

Q: Back to the Super Committee, if they don't come to an agreement by their deadline, there is across-the-board cuts. But there has been talk that some Members may want to undo those triggers. Would you be in favor of that?

Mr. Cantor: I think that right now the trigger is in place to provide an impetus for action. I am confident that we can see success here. I think the country needs us to be successful in reaching the target of the requisite cuts so that we can increase the credit limit of the country, as was agreed upon in the debt ceiling agreement.

Q: Majority Leader, looking beyond the CR, is there any hope of getting the appropriations process done through regular order, or is the game plan just rolling it into an omnibus at this point?

Mr. Cantor: I think clearly the question should be geared towards the Senate. That has always been the issue is what can they get done on the appropriations front? We demonstrated we were able to get whatever it is that we set out to do done. They have not done a thing. I think it will all come down to what is doable in the Senate.

Q: Leader Cantor, you said that a pay down will be forthcoming. Can you tell us when that will be?

Mr. Cantor: You will be hear shortly. Thank you.

Q: You said that the Super Committee should that the triggers should impel the Super Committee to come to an agreement so the debt limit can be raised again. Is it your understanding that the debt limit won't be raised if sequestration goes into effect?

Mr. Cantor: Well, one of a few things has got to happen, as you know. We have got to have some vote in the House to fund the requisite cuts in order to increase the debt ceiling, and that is going to come one of two ways. Either we come and pass a bill that is recommended by the Super Committee, with expedited procedure in the Senate, or the sequester is imposed at the end of the year. One or the other. So that will happen one way or the other. It's our desire to avoid the kind of disproportionate impacts on some of the programs inside the sequester that I don't think are a viable solution.

Q: Mr. Leader, in my dream world, yes or no answers.

Mr. Cantor: Are we going lightning round now?

Q: The $447 billion jobs package as a package dead?

Mr. Cantor: Yes.

Q: Okay. Number one. Number two, to follow on Jim's question, do you have confidence in Chairman Bernanke?

Mr. Cantor: I have confidence in the fact that everybody intends to try and do the right thing in bringing us forward. And so your “yes or no” may not suffice here. I have confidence that Ben Bernanke is a bright guy, and he is trying to do what he feels is best given a very troubled economy.

Where our focus should be, rather than opining as to the prowess of the Chairman or his team, is on the work we have to do ourselves. You know, everything that I hear from businesses across the country, and the people that they employ, and the people that are out of work, is have Washington stop doing so much harm.

We have got a terrible environment for entrepreneurs. You talk to people who have been legendary successes in this country who have said that they couldn't do what they did prior under today's environment because it is so difficult to do business. Now, again, I don't understand what the Administration doesn't get about that.

Again, it is all nice, maybe, their intentions, behind some of these proposed regulations. I don't get what they don't understand that it makes it more difficult for people to put money to work and hire people. I don't get what they don't understand about the threat of higher taxes. Do they not understand that when you are an investor or business, and you put money to work, you gauge what the return is going to be on your investment? If there is a threat of higher taxes, that return necessarily goes down, which means you raise the price of risk. What don't they get that if you want less of something, tax it?

Right now we need investment. We need job creation. I get all the needs around Washington. The problem is Washington's needs never stop. It is the people's needs, the middle class needs in this country we need to put forward first.

Q: Leader Cantor, you signed a letter criticizing the Fed.

Mr. Cantor: Go ahead. I think I have dealt with that question.

Q: To clarify, this 3 percent withholding you are talking about is the one for contractors, correct?

Mr. Cantor: Correct.

Q: Now, can I ask you about the payroll tax, temporary tax cuts? You have supported those in the past.

Mr. Cantor: Again, the payroll tax on the employee side was something that was part of the larger deal in December when we came off the election. And as you know, it was the existing rates, everything from capital gains, dividends, marginal rates, et cetera, that were set to expire. The President felt that after the election that was such a prominent issue, we needed to address that. Part of what he wanted was to say, hey, everybody has got to get something. We said, fine, we are not for taxes going up on anybody.

I think that those extensions certainly are a part of the discussion today. If we are talking about what is most helpful to address the number one issue, which is jobs, I don't know if that is the most generative policy, but certainly that is part of the discussion today.

Q: Are we going to have any more CRs this year?

Mr. Cantor: I certainly hope not.

Q: On the payroll tax question, do you think that since it is beginning to seem like the Super Committee is going to struggle to get to $1.2 trillion, do you think the fact that there may not be the offsets for the payroll tax makes it more difficult for it to pass this time?

Mr. Cantor: Again, my hope is the Super Committee looks at where we can really come through on our commitment to curb the spending in this town. We provided a starting point out of the Vice President's talks that are a blueprint for how you get to that $1.2 trillion. Not everything in there either side liked. But I think it is important for them to focus on their job. I have full confidence that they will. The discussion about tax reform and the rest may be something that is continuing in parallel. Thank you.

Q: Do you have any thoughts on Governor Christie getting into the race?

Mr. Cantor: Listen, I think that that is a decision that is up to the Governor and his family. No question that we have a very viable field now, and we will have to just wait and see.

Thank you.