Transcript: Majority Leader Cantor's Pen & Pad
October 11, 2011
Contact: Doug Heye, Megan Whittemore

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Mr. Cantor: Good afternoon. Welcome back. Today, we are going to see the Senate take up the President's jobs proposal and I think we will see yet again proof that there is not enough support for that proposal in the Senate and a rejection of the President's demands to pass the bill in its entirety. And hopefully after the Senate proves that there isn't support for the President's plan, the President will drop his all or nothing approach and begin to work with us on areas of commonality. I know that there are clearly millions of people out of work who are very frustrated right now, but the White House continues to say that it is up to Republicans to declare what we’re for, and I would remind you – and please report this so that they can hear it again and as can the American people – we have said over and over and over again that we are willing to take up the things that we can agree on so we can actually do some good for the country and try and see some economic growth return.

I would commend you to look at again – we redistributed the memo of September 16th – where I pointed out the areas of commonality that I think we can work on together, and to set politics aside for once and say stop putting things forward that don't have the bipartisan support necessary and let us focus on the things where there is bipartisan support, because there are frankly a lot of them. And if you recall last week when we were in here, I said to you that over the next month, we will be doing some more things that the President has mentioned.

One of them will be the 3 percent withholding bill to get rid of that, which has the potential of raising costs for everybody. As you know, we are bringing up the free trade agreements this week. These bills are two and a half years in the waiting from this Administration, and I'm glad they are finally sending these up. And as we all said before, and the Administration has recognized, there is the potential for the creation of hundreds of thousands of jobs, a quarter of a million jobs. So we are glad we are doing that.

We are going to continue to work towards the repeal of the regulatory proposals that have been suggested that frankly are job killers. The President had some rhetoric in his speech, some language that indicated he wanted to work with us on sensible regulatory policy, policy that has a balance to it, that doesn't necessarily eliminate thousands, if not millions of jobs, over the next 10 years. We will continue to do that. The President also spoke about a desire to work together for access to capital for small business. As I said in here last week, we have several bills working their way through the legislative process in the Financial Services Committee that will do just that. That will afford small businesses and entrepreneurs an easier route to access capital to fund their ventures. That all goes towards what we all want to see, which is small business job growth.

Now, there are reports this morning I don't know if they have been confirmed or not that Senate Democrats are indicating that once the President's proposal fails in its entirety, that maybe it will move in an incremental way to things where we can work on in common. We welcome that. We have said that since the beginning. Again I would implore you to please report that. Republicans have continued to say what we are for. We continue to outline the kinds of things that we can work on together.

Now, the Senate is also working on its tax hike proposal. Now, we all know that’s a nonstarter. If we had been around for the last 8 months here, we know that there is not the support for tax hikes in the House of Representatives necessary to pass because frankly the Majority believes that it is counterintuitive to suggest that you ought to raise taxes if you want economic growth. It just doesn't make sense to us and we’re not going to pass that. So again, it is the wrong move for the economy and I'm hopeful that too can be set aside.

Now, there is no question there is a lot of focus on some of the gatherings and the protests in this town, New York and other places. People are upset and they are justifiably frustrated. They are out of work, the economy is not moving. Their sense of security for the future is not clear at all. People are afraid and I get it. But they are equally afraid of several things. One, I have spoken before about this and that is the country of ours is built on the notion that no matter who you are and what your background, America gives its citizens a fair shot at the opportunity to achieve and earn success. And what people are seeing at all levels of government – whether it is the crony capitalism that exists here in Congress or whether it is at the state level the kind of corruption that has been reported in the news over the last year or two – that somehow if you're close to the halls of power, you have got a leg up over somebody else. That is not fair. We also have seen, frankly, people looking at their retirement funds, 401(k)s, IRAs and the rest, and seeing the volatility in the markets and wondering why is it that it doesn't seem that they have a fair shot at some economic security going forward. And somebody seems to have a disadvantage. Again, these are the kinds of things that people are justifiably upset about, the things that we want to address.

Now, I think people are also upset at Washington because Washington's moves over the last two and a half years have not fixed the problem. In fact, the policies that have passed out of this Congress before this term and the Administration's policies are making matters worse. I mean, you look at the stimulus bill, that has made matters worse. We now have this debt that continues to pile up and working families are worried about what that means for them, their kids and frankly their grandkids. So thank you, Washington, that is what the stimulus bill did.

Then you look at the Dodd Frank bill. You know, people and the President went off, as did the Majority Whip in the Senate and others, about the move on the financial services industry and frankly indicating that perhaps earning a profit in America is no longer something that should happen in the private sector. Well, it is Dodd Frank. It is the policies that have been put in place, although maybe well intentioned, we said all along the cost and burdens associated with these bills are so drastic they are going to end up costing the consumer. That’s what happens when you do this. And that is what happens to people's credit card interest rates, that is what happens to now a debit fee that goes up because Washington has made matters worse and people are upset about it.

And, lastly you can look at the ObamaCare legislation. Do you think that has helped the working families? Absolutely not, look at health care costs and how they are skyrocketing and the premiums on that. So of course people are justifiably upset. We have got to stop making matters worse in Washington, come together and see what we can agree on.

Now, we have said all along there is going to be some matters left for the election. This President said that to the bipartisan leadership team back in the spring. And he specifically mentioned revenues and health care would be a matter left to the presidential election. Well, okay. So if that was the point, why do we continue to hear the rhetoric? Why do we continue to hear the President playing politics instead of trying to get things done and work with us in an incremental way? And so we remain committed in the House of Representatives to doing just that and hopefully we can stop all of this politicking and full mode campaign efforts that the President and the White House are about and get down to business to help people get back to work.

With that, I will take some questions.

Q: Mr. Cantor, you said that you would be willing to work with the President on certain elements of the jobs bill, but it seems like all along the fight hasn't been over the major components of the bill but how to pay for it. Have you or will you propose alternate ways to pay for the bill if you don't like a certain tax

Mr. Cantor: Remember 50 percent of the cost of the bill is stimulus money. We don't believe, in fact I just said now, that the stimulus itself helped things. In fact, it made matters worse. We don't believe that you ought to be going to jack up the cost to the taxpayers and therefore need to justify some way to pay for that because we don't believe that. Again, not an area we can agree on. So let’s move on in terms of trying to see what we can do to help job creators.

Q: You made a point of stressing this week and other weeks that we need to try to find some commonality. But then this week the House is taking up abortion which obviously is not going to get through the Senate or the White House. How do you square those two things?

Mr. Cantor: That was a part of our Pledge to America, that we had always said we were going to move to eliminate government funding of organizations that perform abortions and it is something that we said that we would do and we are upholding that Pledge.

Q: Mr. Leader, you referred last week to the Wall Street protests and growing mobs and criticized Democrats for condoning them. In your comments today, do you now regret that characterization?

Mr. Cantor: What I was attempting to say is that the action and statements of leaders, elected leaders in this town, condoning the pitting of Americans against Americans is not very helpful right now. What we need to do is come together as one, all Americans, and to sit here and vilify one sector of the economy, industries, is not helpful. People are lacking confidence right now. We have elected leaders stirring the pot, if you will. That is not good.

I have said all along there is a reason that people are upset. I get it. We have a growing disparity of wealth in this country. In fact, I read yesterday that the figures are such that it is reminiscent of the 1920s. Now, that is not an easy fix. You can't just sit here and say we are going to tax those people who have got more and give it to those who don't and think that is going to work long term. There are systemic reasons for the disparity. There are education discrepancies; there are upbringing and environmental discrepancies that help contribute to the lack of opportunity for some in this country of ours, where others have it. We need to work on those things together. But it doesn't help the situation to have elected leaders go in and say we are on one side and the other part of the country is on the other, and we will choose that. We are supposed to be leading for all people.

Q: On the jobs front, whether or not you get early agreement with the President, is the House prepared you prepared to start to move some of those September the items in your September 16th memo, including various tax changes?

Mr. Cantor: Yeah. We are looking towards moving those items that were in our memo. And as I listed before within the next month, you can see the items that I indicated, the 3 percent withholding

Q: Can you be specific about which items may be moving?

Mr. Cantor: As I indicated before, we have the 3 percent withholding bill that will be moving within the month. Obviously, we have the free trade agreements on the floor. We will continue to work towards repeal of the onerous regulations that are threatening the creation of jobs and costing business and small businesses and entrepreneurs the ability to do so. And we are continuing to move on the small business access to capital proposals. These are the kinds of things within the next month. That memo speaks to a larger list that we will continue to work on together.

Q: Will any of the policies that Republicans put forward be geared toward creating demand in the economy, is that something Congress should be doing in your estimation?

Mr. Cantor: I think the point we are at in this economy is people are very worried about the long term prospects for themselves and their families. Are their jobs going to be here, are their kids going to have jobs, what is going to happen to their retirement accounts? And they need some confidence. And I think the American consumers, and investors, and families have gotten tired of promises that are temporary fixes. We need to look towards things that can reinvigorate confidence in the American people so that the businesses we rely on to take the risk can do so and know that it is not just this year or next that may have favorable policies, but that long-term we are actually getting this country back on track.

Q: Newt Gingrich said recently that House leadership is not doing everything it can to pass a Balanced Budget Amendment. Can you respond to that?

Mr. Cantor: We are absolutely very committed to making sure that we take advantage of the requirement in the debt ceiling agreement that we see an up or down vote in the Senate and that hasn't happened in quite some sometime, since 1995 or 1996. Yes, we are committed to making sure that happens. The Majority Whip is heading up a lot of working groups and activity focused toward building support both in this building and outside towards a Balanced Budget Amendment.

Q: In the last hour, many of us met with Mr. Hoyer and he was asked several of us asked about the Supercommittee and the prospects and so on and so forth. He continues to emphasize obviously they really need to get this done. Are you hearing are you seeing anything from them? You know, I had asked him about reading the tea leaves. We know what the consequences are here if they don't get their work done. But now that we are getting closer, are you perceiving any good, bad or ugly coming out of them?

Mr. Cantor: Our Speaker has met with the appointees and said that we have got to have an outcome. So I do believe that there will be an outcome. I have full confidence in the members the Speaker has appointed to serve on the Joint Select Committee to ensure that that happens. I do think that given where the two parties are in terms of the outlook for entitlement reform and new revenues that there is a way to affect the type of savings required, and that $1.2 trillion. And I do think that is certainly doable. None it of is easy and neither side is going to be happy with everything. But I am hopeful and I am optimistic that we will get there.

Q: As much as you were earlier on?

Mr. Cantor: Yeah.

Q: We expect this vote in the Senate to fail this evening obviously. What does this vote say, do you think, the fact that Congress is working the Senate is taking up this vote, Congress continues to talk about these jobs, at the same time we know this vote is going to fail. And people are still without work. What does this say?

Mr. Cantor: I think that hopefully this says this is the end of the political games and hopefully it will also mean that the White House and the President will stop going out there demanding an all-or-nothing approach, pass my bill or else, because that is pure politics. He knows and the White House knows that the votes are not there for that. Just as he knows there are some fundamental disagreements on policy. Well, let us try and transcend those disagreements and our message is we do have some potential to agree on some things. So I hope that is what that means.

Q: You attended the Value Voters Conference this week and there was one speaker there that said that there is large swath of conservative voters who would really prefer only to vote for a Christian for President. As a conservative in Washington, how do you respond to that?

Mr. Cantor: How do I respond to the suggestion that –

Q: There are a large swath of conservatives who are only interested in voting for a Christian for President.

Mr. Cantor: I don't even know what to say to that other than if people view that as their driving factor, then this country is one that affords all of us to practice our faith. Obviously, I don't think that one's religion is demonstrative of anything other than that is their faith and you look to see their record and how they are affected by their moral values, if those moral values come from their faith.

Q: You mentioned the $1.2 trillion target as something you think as available earlier. Minority Whip Steny Hoyer said he was talking again about 4 trillion. There is such a big gap. I wonder if you would talk about why you see that original target number as something that is possible and not something bigger, like what the President and Mr. Boehner failed to work out –

Mr. Cantor: Remember, Jonathan, we are at over $6 trillion. If you want to see the House position, it is over $6 trillion. The big number is even bigger if you look at where the House position is. But because of the divide on the issues of health care and revenue, that is what it comes down to. That is why, if you want to get something done, you set aside where you differ and you try to find agreement. That is why it comes down to let us get something done – it really does. What we are talking about is policy that reflects two very different visions for the direction of this country.

On health care, we have been through that. We believe much more in patient centered choice for the health care future that is validated by the Congressional Budget Office to help us manage down the debt and deficit and preserve the quality of health care that we know. The President's vision and his party is much different. It is very much a Washington centric design of health care and also not validated to bring down any costs. So we have got that difference. The President has rejected it and I think the telling fact is this President has not proffered a solution. We have put on the table a solution that does get us to balance. Yes, it is over 20 years, which is a long time. But the President has not done that. So, again, if we are serious about fixing the problem, then we have not seen that seriousness come from the President.

On the revenue side, all you hear is we need to go and impose more taxes on people who have been successful. Well, I can tell you one thing, without fixing the problem, raising taxes is like throwing good money after bad. You cannot tax your way out of the demographic situation as far as the entitlements are concerned in this country and you can't grow your way out. You have got to fix the problem. So if you raise taxes, not only are you throwing good money after bad, you're exacerbating the crisis on jobs, which is our whole point. So with that being the playing field, fine. Set aside the differences, pass the things that can be helpful for entrepreneurs and small businesses to grow.

Q: The Senate is on track to pass the China currency bill. And I'm wondering with the growing number of your rank and file numbers now expressing support for that measure, have you or other leaders reconsidered the decision not to

Mr. Cantor: What I think I would like to see is where the Administration is. Clearly, they have concerns as well. They have not issued a SAP, and with something this important I would think that they would. As I sat in here last time, I would like to hear from folks who are on the frontline of this relationship with China what their concerns are. It would seem to me, that it is a big deal when you're talking about a trading partner like China if you do this without the input of the White House.

Q: Mr. Cantor, on that point, Mr. Critz of Pennsylvania, a member of your conference, is going around the Hill with a discharge petition

Mr. Cantor: Mr. Critz of our conference?

Q: Mark Critz of Pennsylvania. I'm sorry a Democrat. The other party. But it has attracted Republican signatures. Why not move on that after Speaker Boehner has said let the House work its will if it gets close to that 218 number?

Mr. Cantor: Again, I think that the debate will be well served by the White House stepping up, indicating where its concerns are. The USTR, the State Department, the Commerce Department, they all have an interest in this and certainly the President does. This is a significant trading partner which would have tremendous impact, I would imagine, if a bill like this was passed on consumers and pricing and the rest.

Now, I think all of us are very concerned about the competitiveness of our manufacturers in this country and about the unfair practices in place by China and others. It is the Administration's role to make sure that the playing field is even for the manufacturers and small businesses of this country. So again, it is very critical for them to lead on this. Let us hear what their concerns are and the consequences that may result. And we have not yet to date heard.

Q: Just to get back to an earlier question, you mentioned about half of the American Jobs Act being spending and that should not be allowed to add to the debt and so on. Unless I'm missing something, the other half would be tax notions. Are you implying then that whatever these single pieces you may move forward on taxes would be deficit neutral or not deficit neutral?

Mr. Cantor: Haven't decided that. As you know, it's always been the position – maybe I would say you don't know mine, and that is cutting taxes is saying that you're going to let people keep more of the money they earn. Again, it goes back to the very different version of the way we believe society and the American economy works. We also believe that positive tax policy that can spur economic growth should be reflected in the scoring of the kind of things we do around here and is not. So we are in a difficult spot when you ask that question in terms of deficit neutrality. But I would say it is important for us to remember, we have got to focus on jobs and growth. And raising taxes is not going to help that situation at all.

Q: Mr. Cantor, if the Senate were to start moving forward with this whole 2012 bill, would

Mr. Cantor: Yeah, that discussion continues to develop and I'm hopeful. And I know the Speaker is working on that with both the majority and minority leaders in the Senate. I'm hopeful that what we will see are the benefits of having arrived at an agreement in August so that we can address fiscal year 2012 and the savings that are called for and then go back and continue to focus on the most important issue, which is job growth.

Q: I would like to get back to the question of Operation Occupy Wall Street. I'm not sure I understand your answer. Last week you described these demonstrators as a growing mob. You're saying today that they are justified they are upset. Do you renounce that description?

Mr. Cantor: What I said then was that I am most concerned about elected leaders that condone the divisiveness of pitting Americans against Americans. I don't think that is what the situation calls for right now. It is not helpful. And I think that we ought to take a step back and remember what America is about. It is about achievement and success and about making sure that everybody can realize the opportunity to earn that success.

Q: Following up on that, Steny Hoyer has been saying it looks to him that the town hall protests 2 years ago were actually more energetic than what he is seeing in the streets. What do you view the essential differences between Republicans embracing Tea Party protesters and

Mr. Cantor: The Tea Party is very different. The Tea Party were individuals that were attempting to address their grievances, seeking redress of their grievances from the government that they elected. Different from what I see are the protesters on Wall Street and elsewhere, that again are pitting themselves against others outside of government in America. That is the difference. And so as far as what Steny said about energy, all I can tell you is the folks who were involved and continue to be so with the Tea Party are worried about the government and its policies. It is not pitting one part of our country against another. And you know some of the press reports are inaccurate. You didn't hear most of us encouraging any type of violent behavior or whatever when that was occurring. Everyone in this country has a right to speak out and that is the beauty of our system. But when elected leaders come in and then condone the attacks on others in our country, that is not helpful, that is not leadership.

Q: When the House takes up trade adjustment assistance, the majority of Republicans are probably going to oppose the bill. What is the sense of your conference and the mood there that they are okay with it, when most conservatives are opposed to it?

Mr. Cantor: If you look at what Chairman Camp was able to manage in terms of the TAA bill, there is significant reform inside that bill and it is consistent with the necessary bipartisan support for passage of the trade bills. I think it demonstrates that we are willing to do the things necessary to get some of these bills done. Again, I would ask the President to take note. We really are willing to do the necessary things to achieve results without violating our principles and we hope that he would do the same and stop standing on this very political point that he wants his jobs bill and nothing else when that is not going to happen.

Q: And you expect the TAA to pass the House?

Mr. Cantor: I do?

Q: Do you not see the government as part of the people? When you were talking before, you said the Tea Party was bringing their redress against the government and you think do you regret using the word "mob"? I mean, you say these people are divisive against other Americans.

Mr. Cantor: No, David. I didn't say that.

Q: You said they were pitting themselves against

Mr. Cantor: I said they are aiming their ire at others in our society.

Q: You made the distinction between that and aiming your ire at the government.

Mr. Cantor: The ire from the Tea Party standpoint is at Washington. It is about the government and its policies and how that affects this country.

Q: Do you not see the government as representing the people?

Mr. Cantor: Sure. It is of the people. But we are in an elected position and trying to lead to solve problems. I don't believe that our role is to inflame a division between different parts and sectors of American society.

Q: I'm not asking about that. I'm asking -

(Audible) I said ‘last question,’ not last ten questions. Just throwing that out there.

Mr. Cantor: Thank you.