At Tuesday presser, incoming Majority Leader says GOP will aim to offer a bill each week to reduce fed spending by $100 billion this year.
Transcript: Majority Leader-elect Eric Cantor’s Pen & Pad
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
Mr. Cantor: Welcome. I’m sorry we don’t have enough accommodation to let everybody sit. I want to welcome you all.
Obviously, this is the day before our new Majority begins. And we are really excited about the prospects for the 112th Congress.
Before we get into that, I just want to step back for a second. Many of you were in some of our briefings in the other conference room, in which we discussed where Republicans were throughout the last Congress. Much of what we were about then focused on the activities of the Economic Recovery Working Group at that point. And, as you recall, our conference had taken positions, if it were something we opposed, to come up with coherent counterproposals. We started with the stimulus bill and put together our alternative. We did the same when it came to the budget. We did the same when it came to the cap and trade bill, as well as the health care reform bill that was proposed by this President and their Majority.
And the product of all that came to fruition a few months ago in the election that occurred. Clearly, the people of this country spoke out. They looked at this agenda that was being promoted by the White House and the Majority then as something that was far outside the mainstream of where most people in this country are, whether they were families or small or large business people. We know very clearly that that election was a repudiation of what had gone on in this town. It wasn’t necessarily an election about us.
Now, as I assume the new role of Majority Leader, I have met with the incoming freshman class, and I have discussed with them the way I look at what this new Congress is going to be and my role as Majority Leader. Essentially, I told them that I plan to fulfill the role of Majority Leader abiding by a three part rule. That rule is: every day make sure we ask, one, are our actions focused on job creation and the economy; two, are our actions focused on cutting spending; and, three, are our actions focused on shrinking government while protecting and expanding liberty? If we are not focused on those things, the question to really ask is, why are we doing it?
Now, I think you could sum up what our new Majority is going to be about by saying it is a “cut and grow” Majority. We are going to be about cutting spending and cutting the job killing regulations that this Administration has been about over the last 2 years. To that end, you will see the “cut and grow” playbook begin to take hold over the next 3 weeks leading up to the State of the Union.
As you heard yesterday, we are planning to put a repeal bill of the health care reform legislation proposed by this President on the floor. And we are doing that consistent with this rule of cut-and-grow, because that bill obviously spends money we don’t have, and it has with it many job killing regulations.
After the House acts to repeal the health care bill, we will move into our spending cuts. As you know, we were much about the YouCut program when we were in the minority. We will, and have committed to, put on to the floor each and every week bills that cut spending and reduce the Federal deficit.
The week following, we will be targeting the job killing regulations that have been pursued by this Administration.
Now, once we get to the State of the Union, I can tell you, I expect this President to put some action behind the words that he has been using. Number one, I am looking to see some significant spending cuts proposed by the President that we can work on together. Secondly, I think the President has been very outspoken as far as his position on earmarks is concerned. I hope that he picks up the phone and calls Leader Reid on the other side of the Capitol and insists that he join us in making sure that there are no earmarks in legislation coming out of Congress.
I also am very attentive to the need for tax reform in this country. All of us know this economy is still ailing. All of us realize the competitive posture this country is in right now, and it is challenged. Tax reform could be a significant boost to our competitiveness. And I’m hopeful and expect the President to put some action behind his statements towards working together on tax reform.
Lastly, I am hopeful that the President will re evaluate his position on regulations. To this day, we continue to see the drumbeat towards more and more reach by this government. And it is impeding job growth and impeding the access to capital for small businesses.
After the State of the Union, we will begin our discussion having to do with the budget. As you know, Paul Ryan is our incoming Chairman of the Budget Committee. Paul and his committee will put forward a budget that is not only the actual numbers and the compilation of figures that go behind any kind of fiscal document like that, but it also will encapsulate our vision of how we intend to take this country forward as a new House Majority.
I think, summing it up, this is going to be a results driven Congress, and we intend to return America to opportunity, responsibility, and success.
With that, I will take questions.
Q: Will you allow an open rule on the repeal bill?
Mr. Cantor: The repeal bill is going to be a very straightforward document. It is going to reflect what I think most people inside the Beltway and outside the Beltway understand about the healthcare bill that was passed. It is a job killing health care bill that spends money we don’t have, and we need to repeal it and replace it with the kind of health care that most Americans expect.
Q: You mentioned Senator Reid, hoping the President would call him. Senator Reid called you out today and said Representative Cantor is laying the groundwork for Republicans’ extremist agenda of shutting down the government, raising taxes, and, you know, killing the doughnut hole here.
It sounds like these are the first two shots fired between the House and the Senate here in the 112th Congress.
Mr. Cantor: I think it is fair to say, when it comes to Leader Reid, to Leader Pelosi, and their statements of that sort, they clearly don’t understand what Americans want as far as health care is concerned.
Q: Democrats, this morning, dismissed the repeal of health care as just political theater, a kabuki dance, as it were, that it is not really going anywhere. Why health care first out of the gate this time?
Mr. Cantor: I think it is very clear; this is a job killing health care bill. And, as I said before, this Congress is going to be about cut and grow. The bill, itself, spends entirely too much money. We know it is a trillion dollar plus price tag to the bill. That is money we don’t have. And it is also associated with so many regulations that have put too much uncertainty into the mix as far as the private sector is concerned.
And we just need to repeal it, as the American people have spoken out and said. And we need to go about making sure we resume a path towards the kind of health care people expect, as well as an economic environment that provides more certainty for growth.
Q: Since the Senate is not going to act on this and the President is not going to sign it, the Democrats are contending it is a waste of time and you should be focused on, sort of, more direct job stimulating bills. What is your response to that?
Mr. Cantor: Again, I think that the Senate will have to consider its position once the House passes the repeal bill and the Senate hears from its constituents.
Q: Democrats are saying, with this action, you are undercutting three of your campaign promises: one, to reduce the deficit; two, to have an open legislative process you’re just bringing this to the floor; and, three, you seem to be saying you’re not going to be having any amendments on the floor.
Mr. Cantor: First of all, about the budget implications, I think most people understand that the CBO did the job it was asked to do by then the Democrat Majority. And it was really comparing apples to oranges, because it talked about 10 years’ worth of tax hikes and 6 years’ worth of benefits. Everyone knows, beyond the 10 year window, this bill has the potential to bankrupt the Federal Government as well as the States. So that speaks to the budget implications of that.
As far as the question about allowing for amendments, again, this is a bill that most Americans outside the Beltway, certainly most people inside the Beltway, know is something that is rejected by the majority of the people. This has been litigated in this last election. It has certainly been through enough discussion in this House.
And we are going to be charging our committee to go about formulating a replacement for the kind of health care that people want. And that will be something that will have had the benefit of going through the committee process, will have had the ability for the American public to exercise its opinion and views on. And that process will be one of openness.
Q: To that point, though, I mean, why not open it up? If you’re so confident in the polling, which I think is actually a little bit more varied than the way you have presented it, why not open the repeal bill up to a more robust debate?
Mr. Cantor: Again, I think the American people are expecting quick action on the part of the new Republican Majority, as far as this health care bill is concerned. We expect to take this to the floor as soon as possible and deliver on the commitment that we made in our “Pledge to America.”
Q: I’m just trying to get at a couple specifics here. You’re talking about cutting spending, cutting regulations. So, you’ve talked about $100 billion in spending cuts this year. Where are you going to get those cuts the big ticket items, not the small ones, the big ticket items? What regulations are going to target immediately? And, finally, what are you going to do about the debt ceiling?
Mr. Cantor. First of all, we are going to look to our committees to be able to assess priorities and accomplish the goals you speak of.
Yes, the Speaker designate has consistently said that we are going to be about reducing our spending to 2008 levels. We are going to be asking the Appropriations Committee to take a look at that. Obviously, we are in a situation where we are in a CR. We are still looking to see about how that will play out, but our commitment is to reducing spending to 2008 levels.
As far as the regulations are concerned, as I said, during this 3 week period leading up to the State of the Union address, we are going to be placing our marker down and insisting that our committees go about identifying and overseeing what the Administration’s regulatory agencies have been doing, in terms of their job killing agenda.
And we’ll be looking to the President in the State of the Union address to make sure that we hear from him what most Americans are saying, which is we need to see his re evaluation of his position on regulation.
Q: Now that you’re in the Majority, will you ask for new figures from the CBO on this health care bill? And what do you expect them to show?
Mr. Cantor: What we do know is the CBO fulfilled its role according to the rules set by this Congress, and it looked at the paper that was presented before them. We all know that the bill that was passed by the Democratic Majority was full of budget gimmickry.
And so, what we are going to do is we are going to approach the real cost of what health care reform should be, be transparent with the people and have an open process to ensure that we can arrive at the kind of health care that folks want.
Q: I want to just follow up on Jonathan’s question about the debt ceiling. What are your plans for that?
Mr. Cantor: We have got a full agenda of cutting and growing. And we are going to be about demonstrating our commitment to cutting spending every single week that we are here. And we are going to look to that issue when it arises to see what kind of legislative vehicles are available for us in dealing with that question.
Q: Does it have to be passed? Do you believe, personally, as a Membe?
Mr. Cantor: We are not, at this point, at that vote. What we see as the imperative right now is to demonstrate that we are delivering on the commitment to cutting spending and reducing the deficit, just as most Americans are having to do, both in their businesses and their personal lives.
When we get to the debt limit increase vote, we will look to see what legislative vehicles are available, and what legislative tools are available for us to deal with that.
Q: More broadly, out into the next 6 months or 12 months, is it more important as a political statement for Republicans to pass the agenda that you talked about, the items in the pledge, even if you know that some or even most of them might not succeed or might get curbed? Is it important to pass that full, robust agenda for political purposes, to tell your voters
Mr. Cantor: I think what the American people are really looking for are results. Okay? And so, you know, this is a two way street going on here. And results are going to be judged through the prism of whether jobs are created and whether spending is cut and the deficit is brought back under control.
And it is as much the responsibility of this Administration, as well as the Senate, to join with us in echoing what we heard in the last couple of months over the election, which was: We have to get serious about cutting spending. We have to demonstrate this country is going to be put back on to a path of fiscal sustainability. And that would be translated in people resuming their sense of economic security and job security.
Q: You talked a little about regulations. Democrats have seized on Darrell Issa’s letter to trade associations as being, you know, “Republicans beholden to big business” and all those familiar lines. I mean, what is your response to that? And is there going to be more reaching out to trade associations to talk about regulations that have adversely affected them?
Mr. Cantor: You know, I think most people understand that jobs are produced by small businesses overwhelmingly in this country. And what we are not seeing yet are signs that small business job growth has returned. So our focus is going to be on getting our own fiscal house straight for the people that pay for this government and, at the same time, trying to do everything we can to deliver results and stop the job killing regulations.
Q: Mr. Leader, will there be any going back to Jon Karl’s question, will there be any specific spending cuts or regulations targeted before the State of the Union?
Mr. Cantor: Well, we have already announced that the proposal for this week will be a resolution that will direct our committees to cut their budgets by 5 percent. Leadership budgets, Members’ budgets, as well, will be reduced by 5 percent. Starting by setting the example ourselves that we mean business and we are going to lead by example.
Q: On the spending cut question, just taking a polling of your caucus, will we see defense budget cuts in these proposals?
Mr. Cantor: I think most of us have said everything is going to be on the table. And we are going to be about setting priorities. The Republican Majority, as you would expect, is going to be a Majority focused on national security, as far as defense is concerned.
But everybody is going to have to do more with less. That is where the private sector is, that’s where families are, and that’s where this government has to be.
Q: As you move past the outright repeal effort and you deal with specifics and the piecemeal strategy with health care reform, what are the specific areas that Republicans are looking to target?
Mr. Cantor. This comes in the role of oversight of this Congress and going about making sure that we are a cut and grow Congress that we are looking at our actions and whether they are focused on job growth, whether they are focused on limiting the reach of government. That’s what our oversight function will be about.
As you know, there are three main committees of jurisdiction as far as the health care bill is concerned: Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce, and Education and the Workforce. And in each of their jurisdictions, they will be about the oversight, focused on the job killing nature of the regulations following up on the health care bill, as well.
Q: What are the specific parts of it?
Mr. Cantor: Well, again, stay tuned. I think you will see Dave Camp come out with his agenda and what he is going to be about in jobs as far as oversight; John Kline, the same; and Fred Upton, the same.
But, again, the committees will be charged with that oversight, as well as the formulation of a health care scenario where most Americans, I think, would be
Q: Can you focus on three specific areas of compromise? You talk about results, and both sides talked about both sides needing to work together. You talked about the process. It sounds like it is shutting out the soon to be minority in the initial bill, the health care reform, in terms of a closed rule or no amendments, at least. So where are the areas of compromise?
Mr. Cantor: First of all, as I said, most people here and elsewhere believe that this health care bill has been litigated, that our replacement process at the committee level will be open for the public to engage, as well as the minority here.
I said, as well, when we look to the President, he will be coming here to deliver his State of the Union address – and in areas in which he has spoken, that I believe that there are opportunities for us to work together. It is cutting spending, it is on the earmark ban, it is on the issue of tax reform, as well as the regulatory position that he has taken that hopefully he will re evaluate.
Q: On tax reform, what types of proposals would you like to see? On the individual side, on the corporate side, broad, more narrow?
Mr. Cantor: I don’t think there is any question that people think that this Tax Code has brought on way too much cost in terms of compliance and preparation and that it has put this country and our businesses in a less competitive posture vis a vis the competition. And what that does is it translates into a lack of jobs and economic security for our families.
As far as tax reform is concerned, I think that we will be looking to see what the President has to say, that hopefully we can work together on to deliver those results.
Q: If this health care reform vote is not symbolic, then doesn’t it increase uncertainty for small businesses, who don’t know what it will be replaced with at this point?
Mr. Cantor: The imperative right now is to make sure that we put a repeal bill across the floor. Most Americans want to see this health care bill gone for the reasons that I have said.
We will be about trying to include the public, as well as the minority, in shaping the replacement of that bill. But the imperative right now is to make sure that we send a repeal bill across the floor, reflecting our willingness to listen to the American people.
Q: Are we going to see specific spending cuts along the lines of you introduced this one yesterday, but that was only $35 million. Are you going to introduce another one next week, another one the week after that? And will they be for more significant amounts of money?
Mr. Cantor: This is consistent with the “Pledge to America,” in which we committed, as a new Majority, to bring a spending cut bill to the floor every week.
Q: Can you give us a preview of next week?
Mr. Cantor: I guess, stay tuned.
Q: Just to go back to another question about defense spending, my understanding was the $100 billion target was for non security taking up non security. Are you now opening it up to security, homeland defense, and VA, under either the fiscal year 2011 or fiscal year 2012 appropriations?
Mr. Cantor: You are correct in saying that the commitment to 2008 levels was non security, non defense related discretionary, which produced the approximately $100 billion in savings in the first year.
But my statement was this: Everything has got to be on the table. Everyone in this town must go through what people at home are doing, which is doing more with less and prioritizing what we should be about.
But I would say again, in the area of defense, this is going to be a Majority about national security. And we are going to be focused on, what are the things that are a priority to ensure our national security?
Q: Mr. Leader, if you pass the health care reform, if you pass that, you do all the things you want to do, and then these bills die in the Senate, as they did in the last Senate when the Democrats were trying to get things through the Senate, but the Senate circles the wagons in this case, the Democrats do then you’re almost, people say, near minority status. I mean, what have you proved? What have you got to show, at the end of the time, when people are desperately seeking action?
Mr. Cantor: It is about results. And the Senate can serve as a cul de sac if that’s what it wants to be, but, again, they will have to answer to the American people.
What this Republican Majority is going to be about is striving for results. And we believe the best way towards delivering on those results is to go back to that three part rule that I spoke about: focusing on jobs and the economy, focusing on cutting spending, and focus on shrinking government while, at the same time, protecting and expanding liberty.
Those are the principles by which we are going to have a cut and grow majority. And I hope that the Senate, as well as the President, will work with us in delivering results along those lines.
Q: There was an anecdote early in the Administration where you had a conversation with the President and he said at the end of it I think he said, we won. And the signal he sent to you and to all other Republicans was, we are not going to work with them. Why shouldn’t Democrats take that same message from the way you have structured things on the repeal of health care?
Mr. Cantor: The health care bill has been through this process – the bulk of the Congress prior was about the health care bill. This election was about jobs and the economy, and certainly the health care bill played a significant role. It has been litigated according to the American people, if you look at the polling on this.
And that is why we say, look, let’s go ahead, take the step, the commitment that we made and repeal the bill, but open up the process where we are about real health care reform that will reflect what most Americans want.
And what they want is lower prices. They want increased competition. They want to make sure that we institute some kind of medical liability reform to keep the lawyers out of the examining room. They want a sustainable health care environment in which we can keep the health care we know but, at the same time, reduce costs so more folks can be insured.
Our committees are going to be about trying to go examine those goals and see the best way we are going to get there, but it will be an open process.
Q: But aren’t you essentially saying you won?
Mr. Cantor: I think what the American people are saying, by the outcome of this election, is, we don’t like this outside the mainstream agenda that we’ve seen coming out of Washington over the last 2 years. And that is why we are taking the approach to say, fine, we understand that, but we are not taking the position. I think the conversation that you referred to that I had with the President dealt with tax theory. And I think that the subject matter was about what kind of tax relief or what could we do in that stimulus bill to provide the prospects for small business job growth. And the President said, we are going to have a difference on tax philosophy, but elections have consequences, and I won.
We are not taking that attitude, because we want to make sure, if we are putting a health care bill forward, that is an issue that affects so many Americans that we have to work together in this town to produce the kind of results along the lines that I have discussed, in terms of limiting the reach of government and increasing the role of the individual in the doctor patient
Q: On taxes, the President signaled perhaps openness to looking at corporate taxes, bringing those rates down, getting rid of some of those loopholes. Are you open to the idea in principle of maybe moving on that front, leaving individual taxes aside for this year?
Mr. Cantor: You know, I think anything having to do with tax reform has to be looked at through the prism of how do we make sure that we get our economy back on to stable footing. And that means to grow jobs, that means to increase access to capital, that means adding to certainty without somehow skewing the efficient flow of capital. That should be the goal of tax reform. We will look to the President’s comments in the State of the union as to which direction he wants to take.
Thank you very much.