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PBS "News Hour" - Transcript


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MARGARET WARNER: Finally tonight: a book conversation about the direction of the Republican Party.

"Young Guns: A New Generation of Conservative Leaders," is a road map of sorts for how the GOP should govern if Republicans win control of the U.S. House of Representatives this fall. It's written by three up-and- coming Republican congressmen: Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Eric Cantor of Virginia, and Kevin McCarthy of California.

Ray Suarez sat down recently with two of the three authors to discuss the book.

RAY SUAREZ: Well, Congressmen, welcome to you both.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-Calif.): Thanks for having us.

RAY SUAREZ: In the book, you both take pains to distance yourself from the activities of previous Democratic and Republican-led Congresses. You call the book "Young Guns."

Congressman Cantor, what's different about you guys?

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), House Minority Whip: Well, "Young Guns" was a project that Kevin, Paul Ryan, and I were working on several years ago. And the name was sort of given to us by Fred Barnes, who had written an article about the work we were doing.

But, essentially, what happened was, we were tired of losing as a party. We didn't want to be a part of what we had seen transpire over the last several years, which resulted in the voters firing us in '06 and then again in '08. And what we saw was, you know, we really needed help in terms of finding more people to come to Washington to join us, but join us for the right reasons.

RAY SUAREZ: So, to an extent, this is not just your -- the three of you's argument against the Democrats, but also to the approach of other Republicans?

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-Calif.): The whole concept of "Young Guns" is about ideas. What we have done is, we have taken the brand of "Young Guns" that Fred Barnes gave us to go out across the country and find candidates that were willing to challenge Democrats based upon principles that would solve problems, because you're right. We talk about the wrong policies of the Democrats, but we also talk about the wrong policies that the Republicans have and why they got fired.

So we look for candidates that maybe have not been elected before, but have been successful in their own community, in their own business to come to Washington to change it, to solve a problem, because, for too long, problems are not being solved.

RAY SUAREZ: So, will there be a hot debate inside the Republican caucus if you have a majority in the next Congress?

REP. ERIC CANTOR: Yes, I do think that the overwhelming number of new -- newly elected members come January '011 will be members seeking reform, seeking to change the way that Washington does business, change the way Washington looks after taxpayer dollars.

I mean, after all, that is a central tenet in the Tea Party movement today, as well as most independents, Democrats and Republicans across the country.

RAY SUAREZ: But, if you take the cuts that have been mentioned in policy papers from your side of the aisle, and keep all the Bush-era tax cuts, those two trend lines don't cross. You don't get to balance at some point in the future.

REP. ERIC CANTOR: There are many ways for us to go and get back on a path towards balance. None of them are easy. So, there's no easy solution here. First of all...

RAY SUAREZ: So what goes?

REP. ERIC CANTOR: First of all, as far as the tax rates are concerned, you know, so many people are talking about tax cuts, when the reality is, one of two things is going to happen January 1, 2011. Either your tax rates are going to go up or they're going to stay the same.

Nobody's talking about any tax cuts. And small businesses out there right now are looking to see, oh, my goodness, are my taxes going to go up? Can I really afford to keep the lights on and employ people right now? So, that's when Kevin says first order of business has got to be to settle the uncertainty, so we can get folks back into a mind-set that they can begin to grow again and create wealth, not just depend on the government to take it from them and redistribute it.

RAY SUAREZ: Members of your own caucus have said, don't worry. Social Security's not on the table, military spending's not on the table, and Medicare's not on the table.

Well, if you take those three and you say, we're walling them off, it's hard to imagine what you could cut to get us to balance at some point in the future.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY: Not really. Not really.

RAY SUAREZ: Well, give me some examples.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY: I will give you an example. Anybody that rides a first-class ticket on Amtrak, that's only 16 percent. But you know, when you buy that sleeper car, the taxpayer spends $364 subsidizing your ticket, so you could have your bed drawn down.

Do you realize that people that represent a union and work for a federal government, they go out on their off time -- on their time to work for the union, the federal government pays for that union work. That's another $120 million.

Do you realize that we give economic aid -- not humanitarian aid -- to countries that have $50 billion or more in debt they own for us, meaning that we're borrowing 40 cents out of a dollar from China to give them the millions of dollars?

There are so many places we could go through one by one. And when we say to do this, do you realize discretionary spending that we're talking about yielding back grew 88 percent in the last three years? Why do you have 87 different programs for child nutrition? Couldn't you merge those together and get some savings? Business had to do this. Homes have to do this. If families are doing it, the government should learn to do it as well.

RAY SUAREZ: One of the agenda items being discussed by many members of your caucus is repealing the recently passed health care bill. Some parts of it are coming onstream now.

And you say in the book that the people were not listened to. Will you listen if people say, you know, we like having our 24-year-old son on our health insurance plan; we like not getting kicked off an insurance plan if we actually get sick; we like not being turned down for preexisting conditions?

REP. ERIC CANTOR: Sure. Right now, the ability for insurance companies to deny preexisting -- existing coverage shouldn't be tolerated. And we had an answer for that in the Republican proposal, because we say you should begin to form and adequately fund universal access programs at the state level, and then provide a cap as to what the premiums should be in those programs, so no one is left without coverage.

But for the broad spectrum of population that doesn't come under the preexisting condition category, we want to work to bring down those costs. And the way you do it is, you provide choice. And you begin to try and fix the problems in the existing health care system that we have today, not compound them.

And that's exactly what has happened. We all know that doctors and providers are flying off of the Medicaid rolls now. They're saying we just can't do it anymore because we can't afford it.

Why would you want to put an additional 15 million people in a system that doctors are fleeing from right now? That's what the Obamacare bill did. So, we have got to repeal the Obamacare bill, provide the kind of health care coverage that people really do want, but give it to them in a way that's cost-efficient and sustainable.

RAY SUAREZ: I think, when the history of this time in our politics is written, the Tea Party movement is going to get a lot of attention. And the kind of spontaneity and energy and enthusiasm they have brought to the act of campaigning is something that I think everybody would like to tap into who makes their living in politics.

But I'm wondering, if you want to govern after these new members get here in January, does it give you a team that you can govern with, when it's a leaderless, highly differentiated point of view kind of -- kind of group? They're not coming necessarily with your ideas in mind, or your ideas in mind, or Leader Boehner's ideas in mind.

Going to be able to run with these people?

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY: We can. The Tea Party is created not by one single leader. It's organic, but it's created around spending. And if we don't get that under control, we can lose all. Every great society has failed when their debt got too high. So,I think it's more than positive.

REP. ERIC CANTOR: The Tea Party folks that I have spoken to, as well as most Americans, know and can believe in America again. That's what will drive our agenda, people who will come to Washington, who will talk straight, tell the truth, and not make representations that they can't live up to, and then deliver for the people.

RAY SUAREZ: Congressman Cantor, Congressman McCarthy, gentlemen, thank you both.

REP. ERIC CANTOR: Thank you.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY: Thanks for having us.

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