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Fox News "Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace" - Transcript

Interview

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Location: Washington, DC

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WALLACE: The budget battle was the first real test for the new Republican majority in the House. How did they do on spending cuts? Why did they give up on those social policy riders? And what is next in the effort to shrink the government? Here to answer all of that is House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

Congressman, welcome back to "Fox News Sunday."

HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER ERIC CANTOR, R-VA.: Chris, good to be here.

WALLACE: Well, the White House and the president have apparently called an audible after not cutting spending. They were going to freeze it in the 2012 budget that they released a couple of months ago. We now hear they're going to announce a whole new plan on Thursday.

Your reaction?

CANTOR: You know, I sit here and I listen to David Plouffe talk about, you know, their commitment to cut spending and knowing full well that for the last two months, we've had to bring this president kicking and screaming to the table to cut spending. I then hear they're going to present a plan as far as how to address the fiscal situation. And, by the way, they're insisting that we have to about looking at raising taxes again, all while holding up the tax agreement that was signed in December.

o, on one hand, we're going to defend that tax agreement but then go ahead and violate it. Then, as you correctly pointed out, the president himself had said he wouldn't raise the debt limit. And now, they're flipping on that.

So, in my opinion, it's really hard to believe what this White House and the president is saying.

WALLACE: Why do you think the extreme change and sudden change in strategy from a budget that had no cuts in spending, a freeze -- a five-year freeze, which they say would have cut spending by $400 billion -- to saying now we'll address everything, spending cut, entitlements? Why the change?

CANTOR: I have to believe that the president and the White House are beginning to sense the American people get it. You know, we have a fiscal train wreck before us. And unless we act, and act deliberately, we're not going to enable our kids to have what we have. It's plain and simple as that.

You know, this budget deal that was cut or the spending deal that was cut this week is only the beginning. This is the first bite of the apple. And we've been saying that all along. This is about making the right decisions now.

We've got the Ryan budget up this week in the House, which lays out our plan of how we're going to address the fiscal challenges of our country. And, Chris, as you know, we've got the debt limit vote coming in several weeks as well. And what that vote is about, frankly, is dealing with the fiscal mismanagement of the past.

But there is no way that we Republicans are going to support increasing the debt limit without guaranteed steps being put in place to ensure that the spending doesn't get out of control again.

WALLACE: When you say "guaranteed steps," what does that mean? What are you going to need in return for increasing the debt limit?

CANTOR: Well, step back for a second and let's just think about a family. When they're engaging in their fiscal affairs and trying to manage their budget, when you hit the max on your credit card, and you don't know what to do, first of all, you got to learn how you got there and not commit the mistake again. If you're going to get an increase in that limit, I think most people would say OK, let's make sure that we're doing everything we can to not spend the money again.

So, there are all kind of things out there that we lay out in our budget that will be up this week. We're talking about putting in maximum caps as far as expenditures are concerned. We're talking about changing the way that the entitlements work in this country for the future, while protecting today's seniors. And these are the kind of things that we're talking about --

WALLACE: Let me make sure I understand, because, obviously, that was going to be part of the 2012. Are you saying that you're going to impose those as part of the deal to raise the debt limit?

CANTOR: Chris, just as we saw happened this week in Washington, there comes time leverage moment here, a time in which the White House and the president will actually capitulate to what the American people want right now. They don't want to raise taxes. They don't want spending to continue to spiral out of control. And those are the kind of things and mechanisms, whether it's spending caps, entitlement reform, budget process reforms -- these are the kind of things that we're going to have to have in order to go along with the debt limit increase.

WALLACE: Let's talk a little bit about the deal that you guys just made to keep the government running. You talk about the spending cuts are kind of a drop in the bucket, but it's a first step in that process.

Let me ask you another question. Why did the house GOP cave on all the riders, including funding for Planned Parenthood and EPA?

CANTOR: Well, let me just speak to the Planned Parenthood issue, because we believe very strongly that we ought not be spending taxpayer dollars to fund abortion. We fought hard for that.

Frankly, the president and Harry Reid have a very different view on that issue. But what we did get is a guaranteed vote in the Senate for all the American people to see where the senators stand on that issue -- something that we've not gotten before.

But I can tell you, Chris, around the issue of Planned Parenthood, the kind of rhetoric that came out of members on the other side of the aisle is completely inappropriate. When they are saying things like Republicans have come to Washington to kill women, that's just not serious. That's inappropriate.

And when you have that kind of environment, you can't get something serious done.

WALLACE: OK. But let me talk about Planned Parenthood, because I've been looking into this. Let's put up the facts on the screen.

The federal government has been funding Planned Parenthood since 1970. Each year, Planned Parenthood provides 1 million screenings for cervical cancer, 830,000 breast exams. Three percent of its services are abortion. And none of those are funded by the government.

Don't Democrats have a point that defunding the Planned Parenthood is going to hurt women's health?

CANTOR: What I would just say, Chris, is this -- it's all about the fungibility and money. If Planned Parenthood accesses hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer money and they use that for other purposes, then they can use other dollars to fund abortion. What we believe --

WALLACE: But what about 1 million cervical cancer screenings? What about 830,000 breast exams? To heck with that?

CANTOR: No one -- no one differs with the fact that those are good services for women. It's the fact that they deliver abortions is what most Americans don't believe in. And that's why we fought hard to make that point and to deprive the taxpayer dollars from being used for that.

WALLACE: Let's talk about the 2012 budget and entitlements. This week, as we all know, Congressman Paul Ryan unveiled his budget, cut the deficit by $4 trillion over the next decade, including cuts in Medicare and Medicaid.

Are you prepared -- you, the Republicans prepared to go to the Republicans next fall and say, "We stand here right now are going to say we will cut entitlements"?

CANTOR: Yes, Chris, because what we've said and what the Ryan budget calls for are spending targets. And the way we get to spending targets both on the discretionary and mandatory side of the ledger. As we know, the unfunded obligations on entitlement programs are really what are so daunting and causing global investors, as well as Americans, to doubt whether this country can deal with its fiscal challenges.

So, what we've said is this: we're going to protect today's seniors and those nearing retirement. But for the rest of us, all of us who are 54 and younger, I know those programs are not going to be there for me when I retire, just like everyone else 54 and younger. They can't. We cannot sustain that kind of trajectory.

And what we're saying is we've got to bring down the debt in this country. We've got to do the things necessary so that our kids are going to have the same opportunities that we do. It's plain as that.

WALLACE: Let's talk about the Ryan budget. It would cut Medicaid by $750 billion over the next decade. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office says, if you take the Medicare changes, this premium support, what some would call a vouch, that as a result of it, seniors will end up paying more out-of-pocket for their health insurance than they would under Medicare.

CANTOR: What we're talking about in terms of the kind of changes in Medicare is also do some things to correlate to folks' incomes. You know, there are people making a lot of money in this country who can actually afford their own health care. We are in a situation where we got a safety net in place in this country for people who frankly don't need one. We got to focus on making sure we got a safety net for those who actually need it.

WALLACE: Well, the Medicaid people -- you're going to cut that by $750 billion.

CANTOR: Well, the Medicaid reductions are off the baseline. And so, what we're saying is allow states to have the flexibility to deal with their populations, their indigent populations and their health care needs the way they know how to deal with them. Not to impose some kind of mandate from a bureaucrat here in Washington.

WALLACE: I know. But you're giving them less money to do it.

CANTOR: Well, in terms of the baseline, that is correct. They will have more money over time than what they have now, it's just the level of growth in those programs. And what we're saying is there is so much in position of a mandate that doesn't relate to the actual quality of care. We believe that if you put in place the mechanisms that allow for personal choice as far as Medicare is concerned, as well as the programs in Medicaid, that we can actually get to a better result and do what most Americans are learning how to do, which is to do more with less.

WALLACE: There has been a lot of speculation in this town about your relationship with Speaker John Boehner. And there is this image that you're kind of itchily waiting in the wings for him to leave and for you to be able to succeed him.

Question -- did he cement his position as speaker and his support inside the Republican Caucus by the way he handled this whole C.R. debate?

CANTOR: Yes. And John Boehner and I have had a relationship, we were in the minority, we were working together very well in the majority. He got everything he could from this president and from Harry Reid, as far as spending cuts are concerned.

And both of us come to the table and come to the leadership positions that we do every day, wanting to deliver the results that we promised the American people that we would do in November. It's about cutting spending. It's about managing down the debt in this country, so that, frankly, we have a situation where our economy grows and people can get back to work.

That's what both of us share in common. We have a very good working relationship.

CANTOR: And we're going to work together to see that these things happen.

WALLACE: So you back John Boehner as Speaker of the House?

CANTOR: Absolutely.

WALLACE: One hundred percent?

CANTOR: Absolutely. And I've been on this show, Chris, probably a year ago saying that, six months ago saying that. And I'll say it again now.

WALLACE: Congressman Cantor, thank you so much for coming in. It's always a pleasure to talk to you. Please come back, sir.

CANTOR: Thank you.

WALLACE: Up next, we'll hear from our Sunday regulars about the 11th hour budget compromise that prevented a government shutdown.

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