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NPR "Morning Edition" - Transcript


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NPR "Morning Edition" - Transcript


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MR. INSKEEP: After President Obama spoke last night, Congressman Eric Cantor stepped out of the Capital and into a waiting car. The congressman gave us a call as he was being driven away.

Eric Cantor is a Republican from Virginia. He's also a leader of the opposition -- though he says Republicans want to work with the White House when they can.

REP. CANTOR: You know, listen, the speech was a great starting off point, I think, for all of us. And there were some programs that he discussed. There was his initiative to expand the ranks in our military to relieve the burden on the armed forces, as well as the families. There was the education initiatives about trying to emphasize more reform an innovation, such an emphasis on charter schools.

He talked about laying out a plan to save $2 trillion over the next 10 years. That's the kind of talk I think that the American people want to hear, because that means we're going to get results and we're going to be prudent with the expenditures that we're making; and that frankly, we'll stop spending the money we don't have.

MR. INSKEEP: Congressman Cantor, on another subject: Are you confident that the president's proposal to help homeowners is going to go to -- the money is going to go to people who deserve it?

REP. CANTOR: I am still trying to understand the very complicated plan that Secretary Geithner laid out several days ago.

My concern is that number one, 90-some percent of American homeowners are current on their mortgages, many of whom are struggling with increased property taxes and bills accumulating at the end of the month. The concern I have is that we'll be taxing those individuals to pay for individuals who may not be able to ever pay for the home that they're in.

We know that the default rate on the mortgages that have been modified thus far is extremely high. So it also concerns me that if we are going to spend the type of money -- and we're talking $100 billion or more -- that it be spent so it can produce results and not be throwing good money after bad.

MR. INSKEEP: Are you saying then that some people just have to lose their homes. It's just reality. Is that what you're saying?

REP. CANTOR: Well, listen, I think all of us want to make sure, number one, the American dream is alive and well, that everybody has an opportunity to own a home. But the situation is such that loans were extended, people signed on the bottom line in certain circumstances where that shouldn't have happened.

MR. INSKEEP: Congressman Cantor, I want to remind people that you organized House Republicans to oppose the president's economic stimulus plan and in fact, every House Republican voted "no".

As you look at some of the huge issues having to do with the economy, with banking, with housing, with issue after issue over the next few months, do you foresee that having to happen multiple times? That you will be so far apart from the president that you will have no or hardly any Republicans who are with him?

REP. CANTOR: Well, no. I don't, Steve, because I think that there was a very clear distinction on the plan that House Republicans put forward and the actual plan that House Democrats passed.

That debate is behind us. We've got to go forward. We have to tackle these very difficult situations, starting with our banking system. We've got to get credit flowing again. The president was very definite in his commitment to make sure that happens and I believe that we will have some ability to work together to produce results.

MR. INSKEEP: Is there any downside to Republicans opposing the president right now when he's popular, according to the polls?

REP. CANTOR: Well, listen, I mean some considered the vote a couple of weeks ago as in opposition to the president. What I believe is that it was an opposition based upon an alternative that we had put forward that frankly, House Democrats refused to incorporate the actual spending plan that emerged.

But that is in the past. I think we can work together, though, in ensuring that whatever did pass succeeds and we can do that by being very keen in our oversight of how taxpayer dollars are spent.

MR. INSKEEP: Well, now that's interesting. You say "ensuring that whatever did pass succeeds". Would you encourage governors to take the stimulus money -- even though some Republican governors might not take some?

REP. CANTOR: Steve, what I think is this stimulus bill is a bill designed to preserve, protect and create jobs. If governors are going to access the money, the money should not go into new programs that have nothing to do with jobs.

MR. INSKEEP: Meaning that you would support some governors if they object to portions of this.

REP. CANTOR: You know, this is in the interest of each state and their governor. What I would say is the stimulus money should be about preserving, protecting, creating jobs.

MR. INSKEEP: Congressman Eric Cantor of Virginia. Pleasure to have you on the program again.

REP. CANTOR: Absolutely. Thank you.


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