MSNBC "MORNING JOE" INTERVIEW WITH HOUSE MINORITY WHIP ERIC CANTOR (R-VA)
SUBJECT: REPUBLICAN RESPONSE TO PROPOSED ECONOMIC STIMULUS PLAN INTERVIEWERS: MIKA BRZEZINSKI, WILLIE GEIST, MIKE BARNICLE, PAT BUCHANAN, CARLOS WATSON
MS. BRZEZINSKI: All right, here he is, Congressman Eric Cantor, who'll be leading a panel of top economic leaders today to outline policy proposals for Obama's stimulus plan.
Congressman, how are you, sir, this morning?
REP. CANTOR: We're doing great.
MS. BRZEZINSKI: All right. Let's talk about Obama's stimulus plan. What are your biggest reservations about it, at this point? There seems to be some friction over several facets of it.
REP. CANTOR: Well, first of all, I want to start out by saying that we are -- the Republican members are holding a working group hearing today on Capitol Hill. And we will have no monkeys in the hearing room, I can assure you. (Laughter.)
MS. BRZEZINSKI: Oh, goodness. He's cleared that up. I'm relieved, actually.
REP. CANTOR: Although it may be tempting, but we're not going to allow it.
MS. BRZEZINSKI: (Laughs.) You're not going there. It's a new future for the Republican Party.
All right, so give us a sense, though. What are your reservations about the plan?
REP. CANTOR: Well, look. You know, about a week ago Republican Leader John Boehner and I met with the president-elect and, you know, the president-elect told us to bring him the ideas that we've got for a real stimulus package.
That's why we're having the hearing today. Meg Whitman's going to be there; Mitt Romney's going to be there. We've got a slew of economists.
And what we're going to try and focus on is what a stimulus bill should be, and that is about the creation, the protection, the preservation of jobs, particularly with a focus on small businesses and families.
And, you know, as you discussed prior, the important thing is for us to re-instill the confidence on the part of investors. That's where we've got to focus, not necessarily on the type of government spending, the increasing role of government that seems to be coming out of some of the meetings that are being held by the Hill -- the Capitol Hill Democrats.
MR. BUCHANAN: Congressman, what basically do you have in mind as a proposal, really, to stimulate the creation of jobs -- my guess would be tax cuts for small businesses -- and what is your expectation that those kinds of, if you will, supply-side tax cuts are really going to wind up in the package, or are you just making a record for what ought to be done, not expecting much action?
REP. CANTOR: Well, Pat, I think we are very optimistic, given where the president-elect is right now. He has proposed a significant amount of tax cuts.
What we want to do is continue to build on that proposal to make sure those tax cuts are meaningful.
You know, we don't want to be just about wealth redistribution. We want to be about meaningful incentives for small businesses and individuals to actually go about regaining their competence in creating jobs.
The problem is yesterday here in Washington we heard Senator Schumer and others -- Nancy Pelosi said last week that they want to raise taxes, that somehow any type of incentive for businesses right now is not appropriate. We would disagree wholeheartedly.
The bottom line is the way we're going to create long-term jobs and get this economy going again, we're going to have to look to the private sector to do that, not through the expansion of government.
MR. WATSON: Congressman, Carlos Watson here. In the Silicon Valley you hear a lot of the CEOs, including some of Meg Whitman's former colleagues, say that we need to change the immigration laws and allow us to bring in more of the best and brightest, especially those who already come here and get their Ph.D.s, to help us create some of these jobs in the technology sector.
Are you in favor of those kind of immigration changes that would allow folks who've come from overseas and gotten their Ph.D.s here to remain and help create jobs?
REP. CANTOR: I couldn't agree more. We are the Statue of Liberty to the world. We have to de-couple the illegal immigration issue from the legal immigration issue.
We want to be the place and the destination for the world's best and brightest. But we are a country of laws, and so we've got to insist and make sure that we have enforcement of our laws, both at the border and internally.
But on the other hand, we want to attract the best and the brightest because we are the land of opportunity. We can all build together a future for our children and our grandchildren.
MR. BUCHANAN: Congressman, we just heard that there are -- 524,000 people applied for unemployment. I think it's an increase of 54,000 in the week.
With -- kinds of unemployment numbers, should we be, I mean, opening our borders to greater immigration and greater competition for the Americans who are out of work? It's over 7 percent unemployed, and bringing in new folks, it seems, creates more competition for fewer jobs.
REP. CANTOR: Listen, we are a country of free markets. As far as the working people who have lost their jobs, we've got to address that.
And I think what we'll hear today in our hearing is to try and address that through some -- various different mechanisms to try and allow people to get back on track and create opportunity.
If we have got the best and the brightest coming here to America in a legal way, if we provide an environment for those individuals to invest their money, to take part in a great economic expansion, Pat, what do you think will happen?
We'll have more jobs created; we'll have an increased number of skilled people in this country to help spread those skills.
We can't be afraid to compete in this country.
MR. WATSON: But you know what? That's -- what's interesting is there will be that fight, Pat, right? Because people will say as unemployment reaches 10 percent, you'll see that schism within the Republican Party. How wide open do we keep the doors?
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, I think there's pretty much unity about illegal immigration; it ought to be stopped.
MR. WATSON: But on the legal side --
MR. BUCHANAN: On the legal side, people say when Americans are going out of work, 500,000 or so a week or month or whatever it is, why would you -- bringing in new working-class people who are coming in in the tens of thousands?
MR. WATSON: Although the congressman's argument is that it'll create more jobs.
MR. BARNICLE: Well, speaking of working-class people, Congressman, let me ask you this. What's the quickest way, with the $350 billion ready to slide in, the second half of the tranche money ready to slide in, what's the quickest way, in your view, to get people to have the ability to get a car loan and a student loan?
REP. CANTOR: Well, the original mission of the TARP funds was to provide a boost to the infrastructure, if you will, of credit. Credit's much like a utility; if you cut the utility off, if you cut the lights off, everyone is impacted.
And where I believe people are having trouble getting car loans, house loans, or any type of other consumer loans is the fact that the credit markets have not resumed any kind of normal functionality.
And so if we can limit the use of the TARP funds to just that and get away from now what has seemed to have occurred, which is to give any particular industry that may be of -- a topic of the week here in Washington, and steer it back towards creating and enhancing the infrastructure of credit, we'll be a lot better off.
MS. BRZEZINSKI: All right.
MR. BARNICLE: So you're not in favor of Larry Flynt's proposal to fund the porn industry?
MS. BRZEZINSKI: Oh, we were doing so well.
(Laughter, cross talk.)
MS. BRZEZINSKI: Congressman Cantor, thank you so much. It's very good to see you. We'll see you in Washington, I hope.
REP. CANTOR: Thank you so much.