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CNN The Situation Room - Transcript

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BLITZER: Joining us now, two key members of the House Ways and Means Committee: the New York Congressman, Charlie Rangel, who would likely become the chairman if the Democrats take over; and Republican Congressman Eric Cantor of Virginia. He's in the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives.

Congressmen, thanks very much for coming in.

And let me start off with you, Charlie Rangel.

What do you make of the latest comments that the vice president is making and your quotes in the "New York Post" today, in which you lashed right back?

RANGEL: Listen, Dick and I are old friends and I'm certain that he's not offended by that language. Remember, not too long ago he asked one of my colleagues in the Senate to commit a sexual act upon himself.

But I was really surprised he would single me out as one that could destroy the economy. But I know one thing, that after the election, Democrats and Republicans are going to have to sit down and work these things out. It's good for the Congress. It's good for the country. But all of this is campaign rhetoric.

BLITZER: Well, let's listen to this other quote from the vice president directly going after you, Congressman.

I want to play it for our viewers.


DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If Charlie Rangel were chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Charlie said there's not a single one of the Bush tax cuts he thinks should be extended and he could achieve that objective simply by not acting. I think Charlie doesn't understand how the economy works.


BLITZER: All right, a strong accusation. You don't understand how the economy works. And American's taxes are going to go up if you are chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, which is responsible for taxes in the Congress.

RANGEL: That's absolutely ridiculous. As a matter of fact, the one thing that I have been advocating and hoping we can reach some bipartisan agreement is to remove this heavy tax, or the alternative minimum tax that's on middle income people.

What he is talking about is taxes that's going to expire in 2010. Well if the president wants to simplify the tax system, and I think the members of the committee in the Congress would want to do it, everything has to be on the table. He knows that, and all the members of the committee know it.

BLITZER: Does Congressman Rangel, Congressman Cantor understand how the U.S. economy works? Does he understand tax policy?

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R), VIRGINIA: Well, you know, good to be on, Wolf, and with my friend Charlie.

I think that certainly he is a veteran on the Ways and Means Committee. But I would tell you, I love to hear the bipartisan talk from Charlie Rangel today because, you know, it is my understanding, Charlie, that you haven't committed one way or the other on renewing any of the Bush tax cuts.

And given that and given the fact that you and your colleagues on the other side of the aisle refuse to help in any way to pass the Bush tax cuts, when they have been largely responsible for the prosperity that we have seen across the board, including middle America here, I question really where you are, too, Charlie.

RANGEL: Eric, these -- you know as well as I do that these tax cuts do not expire until 2010. And we have so many -- and the alternative minimum tax, that's on the taxpayers now.

So don't you really think it makes good economic sense to see what the economy looks like before we get to 2010? I think it's irresponsible to say that you are going to have tax cuts in 2010 without dealing with the problems that we have today.

CANTOR: Well, surely, everything was on the table prior when you worked with Chairman Thomas to try and craft a tax package that would inure to the benefit of Middle America. And in fact, Middle America, the average American family, actually does receive a benefit on these tax cuts.

And there are about 15 million Americans that will receive a $2,100 tax increase if we don't act affirmatively to extend these tax cuts, Charlie. You know that.

RANGEL: But this is not the time -- you are talking about 2010. We've got problems that we have to take care of perhaps before then. We have the Social Security system, the Medicare system, the tax reform system.

And so I'm 76 years old. You're a young man, you can talk about 2010 and 2020. But what we should be talking about in this election is how we've got to work together with a common agenda.

CANTOR: Well, listen, I'm all about that kind of talk from you, Charlie. I mean, look, we've had a lot of discussion on all of these issues. And, frankly, your side of the aisle has been absent. When we talk about entitlement reform, we talk about Social Security reform, we talk about tax reform, there's been absolutely no willingness nor any record to point to by you and your colleagues.

RANGEL: This may shock you, because you and I have always gotten along, but listen carefully. Chairman Bill Thomas has never discussed with me any tax policy or any trade policy.

BLITZER: Charlie Rangel and Eric Cantor, thanks to both of you for coming in with one week to go before Election Day. Appreciate it very much.


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