MSNBC Interview - Transcript
MSNBC INTERVIEW WITH REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA)
SUBJECT: AIG INTERVIEWERS: JOE SCARBOROUGH, MIKA BRZEZINSKI, LAWRENCE O'DONNELL
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REPRESENTATIVE GARY ACKERMAN (D-NY) (From video): This old schoolteacher is going to give you a little bit of advice, pay the $165 million back.
REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL CAPUANO (D-MA) (From video): Do you really believe that these are the only people that are capable of doing this job?
REPRESENTATIVE STEPHEN LYNCH (D-MA) (From video): This should not have happened, and I honestly believe this is reversible. This is so outrageous.
REPRESENTATIVE GARY PETERS (D-MI) (From video): People are sick of this double standard where working class and middle class workers are treated differently than the financial industry executives.
REPRESENTATIVE PAUL HODES (D-NH) (From video): I think AIG now stands for arrogance, incompetence and greed.
MR. SCARBOROUGH: Oh, boy.
MS. BRZEZINSKI: Okay. Here with us now, Republican Representative from Virginia and House Minority Whip, Congressman Eric Cantor.
Congressman, welcome to the show. Good morning.
REP. CANTOR: Good morning.
MS. BRZEZINSKI: So are you in line with all this shock and outrage and absolute just stunned disgust?
MR. SCARBOROUGH: Are you shocked and stunned and deeply saddened and you just never saw this coming?
REP. CANTOR: Listen, I mean, we're all just -- you know, we are all disappointed, I mean, come on, I think the American people are looking at this, just scratching their heads wondering why isn't it that Washington gets it anymore? How do we get ourselves into this situation? What's going on at Treasury? What's going on in Congress? I mean, I don't blame folks for being as outraged as they are.
MS. BRZEZINSKI: I'll tell you how I think we got ourselves into this situation. I think the specific one with AIG was there was a provision that would have prevented the bonuses, but it looks like that was blocked and it looks like everyone sort of knew about this and now is shocked.
REP. CANTOR: Well, I mean, the bottom line is when that provision came to the floor of the House, it was in that 1,100-page stimulus bill, and if you recall, no one in the House read that ill. The Speaker didn't allow anyone at the time or the public the right to know.
MR. SCARBOROUGH: Hold on. This provision was in that stimulus bill?
REP. CANTOR: Yes.
MR. SCARBOROUGH: That Gary Ackerman said to me he couldn't read because --
MS. BRZEZINSKI: He didn't have time.
MR. SCARBOROUGH: Everybody had to get out of town?
REP. CANTOR: Right. No wonder things are in such disarray here.
MR. SCARBOROUGH: Hold on a second. So you're telling me that everybody we saw on that committee screaming and yelling and being shocked by these bonuses, voted to allow these bonuses because they didn't read that stimulus bill?
REP. CANTOR: If you voted for the stimulus bill, you allowed the provision to go forward which stopped the government from disallowing these bonus payments.
MR. SCARBOROUGH: I don't know what to say, you know, I'll be honest with you. We were going to jump all over you because we've been jumping over Democrats this morning --
MS. BRZEZINSKI: Yeah, we just thought we'd spread the wealth.
MR. SCARBOROUGH: We wanted to attack you, we really did. We said let's savage him. The Democrats passed a stimulus bill. They passed this stimulus bill and we asked everybody, why won't you read the biggest spending bill in the history of the United States Government? And they said we don't have time.
MS. BRZEZINSKI: Or a crisis.
MR. SCARBOROUGH: We're in a crisis and if we don't pass it today on Friday, people will lose their job over the weekend. Well, Barack Obama over the weekend went to Chicago, played basketball and went out to eat dinner with his wife for Valentine's Day and then he signed it like four or five days later.
MS. BRZEZINSKI: Okay. Lawrence --
MR. LAWRENCE O'DONNELL: And you have been telling the nation that everyone knew this was there, everyone, Obama knew and everybody knew before the fact and Congressman Cantor, thank you. You've just told us that no one knew, that absolutely no one read the bill.
MS. BRZEZINSKI: Which is worse?
MR. O'DONNELL: And no one knew.
MR. SCARBOROUGH: Well, all the people that voted for the bill didn't read the bill.
REP. CANTOR: Right. This is the problem here. We were jumping up and down that we could have done better in that stimulus bill on a variety of different levels, but as far as this particular case is concerned, you know, first of all, we don't really know now. Senator Dodd has said, first of all, it wasn't his idea of the provision and now he's admitting that maybe it was his idea. What's going on at Treasury? What's going on with Senator Dodd? No one really knows that. But we do know that the provision was in the bill that was 1,100 pages long that no one read, I mean, that's what happens when you've got Congress acting without checks and balances.
MR. O'DONNELL: Congressman, today is the day you can do something about it. Have you and your Republican colleagues finally found a tax increase that you can love? Are you going to vote for the tax seizure bill that the House of Representatives is going to vote on today to seize those bonuses back from the edge --
MR. SCARBOROUGH: Which by the way just for the record, sidebar here, counselor, that will not be sustained by the Supreme Court.
MR. O'DONNELL: I said that yesterday, but what I want to know, Congressman Cantor, if you're opposed to these bonuses, have you finally found the tax increase that you like specifically targeted for those bonuses? If not, how would you get the money back?
REP. CANTOR: Listen, I am for whatever we can do right now to get that money back into the Treasury.
MR. O'DONNELL: You're going to vote for it today. There's a vote today. Are you going to vote for it today?
REP. CANTOR: We've got two bills coming to the floor today. There's a sense in Congress, which says that we ought to take a look at all of this, I mean, why are we here to begin with?
MR. O'DONNELL: Do you not know how you're going to vote on Charlie Rangel's tax bill today?
REP. CANTOR: It is a terrible tax policy, but I'm telling you one thing, I want to get those bonus payments back in.
MR. O'DONNELL: I think I heard a no.
REP. CANTOR: I'm going to get those bonus payments back in because, you know --
MR. O'DONNELL: How are you going to do it? How are you going to get that money back?
REP. CANTOR: Well, first of all, there was an announcement of a bill yesterday, which directs Treasury Secretary Geithner to come out with how he's going to get it back in, I mean, how in the world --
MR. O'DONNELL: Oh, so you're going to say, Tim, could you please get it back? I don't know. Could you please do it?
REP. CANTOR: We all know that he approved the second tranche of the TARP money that went to pay these bonuses. Where were -
MR. O'DONNELL: But you don't have an idea? What you're telling us today, we have no idea how to get the money back, we'd like to ask the Treasury Secretary to do it. We will not vote for Charlie Rangel's tax proposal to get the money back.
REP. CANTOR: I'm not saying that. I think you're going to find a lot of support in the House on both sides of the aisle.
MR. O'DONNELL: It's too early in the morning for how you're going to vote today.
MR. SCARBOROUGH: Lawrence, we know that you're a little revved up about St. Patrick's Day.
MR. O'DONNELL: Two cups of coffee, Congressman Cantor, I apologize.
MR. SCARBOROUGH: Congressman, we're sorry, he's from the West Coast. He's not used to being up this morning.
MR. O'DONNELL: That's true.
MR. SCARBOROUGH: We will actually let you answer.
REP. CANTOR: Listen. I think you're going to find a lot of bipartisan support for the Rangel bill. Do you think this is good tax policy? No. Do you think it's good policy to have a government owning our banks and deciding on payments, on executives? No. But the fact of the matter is the people of this country know it's their taxpayer dollars that have been put out there and are paying these bonuses. How crazy is that?
MR. SCARBOROUGH: I just want to know how you're going to vote?
MR. SCARBOROUGH: By the way, the quote of the morning thus far, Lawrence O'Donnell's socialism is hard.
MR. O'DONNELL: Congressman, the president said yesterday he has full confidence in Secretary Geithner. Do you?
REP. CANTOR: Listen, I don't think you're going to find anybody on Capitol Hill that doesn't have some real concerns about what's going on at the Treasury Department and I think Secretary Geithner owns this country an explanation, first of all, how he approved the second tranche of the TARP money without catching these bonuses. And secondly, what are we thinking here if the Treasury Department really did request this provision of Senator Dodd?
We need the answers to Dodd as well.
MR. O'DONNELL: But you do think Tim Geithner is the only person who can figure out how to get the AIG balances --
MS. BRZEZINSKI: Oh, Lawrence.
MR. SCARBOROUGH: He's the Treasury Secretary.
MR. O'DONNELL: Congressman, you said that your idea for getting the money back is to ask Tim Geithner how to do it.
REP. CANTOR: He's the Secretary of the Treasury. He is the one who put the taxpayer dollars out there that allow these bonuses to go forward.
MR. O'DONNELL: And you have confidence in his ability to get it back? That's what you just said.
REP. CANTOR: Listen, if he is the president's Secretary, he ought to be responsible for his actions. He's the one who put the money out there.
MR. O'DONNELL: I agree.
MR. SCARBOROUGH: Eric, he agreed at the end.
MS. BRZEZINSKI: I think you're a good sport, Congressman.
MR. SCARBOROUGH: He's very angry about St. Patrick's Day. He thinks it's terrible for his people.
MS. BRZEZINSKI: Yeah.
REP. CANTOR: Joe, here I thought we'd be talking about March Madness and VCU going all the way.
MS. BRZEZINSKI: What's your pick? It's VCU.
MR. SCARBOROUGH: Very good. Congressman, we promise if you'll fill it out, we'll keep the mad Irishman away from you the next time you come here.
MS. BRZEZINSKI: Thank you very much for joining us this morning.
MR. SCARBOROUGH: Thanks, Eric.
REP. CANTOR: Absolutely. Thank you.