NPR "Morning Edition" - Transcript
MS. MONTAGNE: The $825 billion plan is up for a House vote later today. Republican leaders in the House have urged members of their party to oppose the bill. Still, the president made his case at a luncheon with the Republican leadership, including our next guest: Congressman Eric Cantor. He's the Republican whip.
Good morning, Congressman.
REP. CANTOR: Good morning.
MS. MONTAGNE: Now, did the president say anything yesterday that made you change your mind?
REP. CANTOR: Well, what the president said that was very encouraging was that he had no pride of authorship in this bill. That said to us that, frankly, he is open to continuing to work to try and get this stimulus right. And after all, if we're going to deliver on time to revive this economy, a stimulus bill has got to be focused like a laser on the preservation, protection and creation of jobs.
MS. MONTAGNE: And what, in your opinion, prevents it from doing that? Specifically, what's in the bill that you would like out?
REP. CANTOR: Well, this is an $850 billion package. And frankly, as it works its way through Congress and gets over to the Senate, I would not doubt that it will be over 1 trillion (dollars) by the time it's all said and done. That's a lot of money.
And if we're going to go and borrow that kind of money and create $1 trillion worth of additional deficit this year, we ought to make sure we're getting it right. And the kinds of spending that is in the bill -- frankly, this is an emergency. We don't need Washington to be working the same way it always does. You've got plenty of project that are maybe laudable in and of themselves -- such as $3 billion for health and wellness prevention; such as $600 million for the purchase of additional federal fleet -- now, these, again may be worthy goals, but right now we ought to be focused, again, like a laser on trying to get jobs back on track and get an environment for growth.
MS. MONTAGNE: Well, Congressman, what would you or the Republicans say would do that that is not in this bill? What would you like in it?
REP. CANTOR: Well, first of all, we have to be very mindful of the overhang of a looming deficit that's growing by trillions of dollars a year. That's number one, because that in and of itself dampens entrepreneurial activity and investment. So being cognizant of that is number one.
Number two, you know, we've got to make sure that we are stimulating investors, entrepreneurs, small business people to get back in the game. And there's only $41 million for small business expensing in this bill. That's for the real mom and pops; that's for the real entrepreneurs out there that are creating 70 percent of the jobs in this country.
There are some terrific tax provisions in the bill. We thanked the president for working with us and getting those in. But if we want to be meaningful about what we're going to do tax-wise, we have got to be much more focused on the real job generators in this country.
MS. MONTAGNE: Let me ask you a political question -- and we're talking with Congressman Eric Cantor, one of the Republican leaders in the House.
You and your fellow Republicans may vote against this bill. Do you think you will pay any price, because this bill is attached to a very popular president?
REP. CANTOR: There's no question that, you know, we are in the world of politics. This president is extremely popular. He was elected on the premise that he was going to come to Washington to change the way that Congress worked; to stop the pork barrel spending; to stop all these, you know, items in bills that have nothing to do with the primary focus -- again, here to create jobs.
And frankly, this bill doesn't rise to that standard. I told the president that when I met with him on Friday. I would like to see him step up and work with the Democrat leaders in the House and say, look: We're all in this together. We've got to stop the nonsense.
I mean, people in this country are tired of the bailout mentality. I think they are turned off by spending $1 trillion. And if they looked at what was in this bill, it does not warrant the type of support that some of the Democrat leadership in Congress feels it does.
MS. MONTAGNE: Thank you very much, Congressman.
REP. CANTOR: Thank you.
MS. MONTAGNE: Eric Cantor of Virginia is the Republican whip in the House of Representatives. The House plans to vote today on the economic stimulus package.