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CNN "The Situation Room" - Transcript


Location: Washington, DC


BLITZER: New air attacks today by pro Gadhafi forces including the bombing of a rebel-held town in eastern Libya. It's new fuel for those who say the United States should impose a no-fly zone over Libya. A lot of heated debate happening here in Washington, including on Capitol Hill.

Let's go to the House Majority Leader right now, Eric Cantor, the Republican of Virginia. I want to talk about this. I want to talk about money, politics, but first of all, the no-fly zone. John Kerry, Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, says the U.S. has to do it right now. What do you think?

REPRESENTATIVE ERIC CANTOR (R) VIRGINIA: You know, Wolf, I mean, obviously all of us are very concerned about what we see unfolding in Libya. You know, Moammar Gadhafi is someone who has demonstrated an unbelievable disregard for innocent life, something that strikes at the core of who we are as Americans.

We don't tolerate such behavior. I think it's very important for us to make -- make our position known the way the White House has, the way that Senator Kerry, Senator Clinton have in terms of making sure Mr. Gadhafi is gone.

But, you know, it's also very important for us to know what the opposition movement in Libya needs in terms of trying to restore some order so that we can see a return to some -- some type of norm so that perhaps we can grow the freedom and democracy that seems to be sprouting throughout the Middle East.

BLITZER: Are you open to arming the opposition? They came under fierce attack from Gadhafi's forces in Benghazi today. Would that be something you'd be open to? CANTOR: Well, I think that the -- really the direction needs to come from the administration as they are trying to discern what it is the opposition needs in Libya. And we are obviously open to discussing that with the administration and providing what is necessary so that we can get Mr. Gadhafi on his way.

BLITZER: So at least on this issue I take it, Mr. Leader, you have confidence in the president of the United States?

CANTOR: I do think that we're working and should work with the administration in terms of executing policies that promote U.S. security interests in the region, as well as fostering an environment where we can see the loss of innocent life stop and the spread of more freedom.

BLITZER: All right. Let's talk about money and the budget, the national debt.

You passed, the president signed into law a two-week extension of this year's budget. In his signing statement he said, "Living with the threat of a shutdown though every few weeks is not responsible and it puts our economic progress in jeopardy."

He wants the vice president, the budget director, to meet with you, the congressional leadership, tomorrow and come up with a long- term plan. Are you ready to sit down with them and work it out?

CANTOR: You know, Wolf, meetings are great and talk is great, but we need to see action. The American people elected us here to cut spending so we can create an environment for jobs in America. The House has acted. We have demonstrated that we want to see spending, discretionary spending, brought down to levels of 2008.

We've seen no counteraction. We have seen no position that has been expressed by the other side at all. The president has not laid out what his vision is and, frankly, Harry Reid and the Democrats in the Senate have not for once even posited what their position is.

Again, the American people expect us to do what they are doing. It's tightening the belt, it's learning how to do more with less. That's a reality today, and we've got to do that in order to get the private sector growing.

BLITZER: Am I correct in assuming that if the vice president, the budget director, Jack Lew, they come up to the Hill tomorrow and they say they want to meet with you, you're going to say no way?

CANTOR: No. I mean, sure, we're always willing to talk.

BLITZER: Will you talk with them tomorrow?

CANTOR: Absolutely. We're always willing to talk, but what I'm telling you, Wolf, talk is fine. But let's -- why don't we go and focus on action?

The House has demonstrated where we are. The Senate has not even begun. Harry Reid has not put out there where the Democrats are.

The American people expect action. We've always said as Republicans we don't want to shut down the government. We want to cut spending. We were able to see this week go forward where we actually did cut spending in a prorated amount towards 2008 levels.

Let's see if we can get there together for the rest of the fiscal year.

BLITZER: The House of Representatives, as you correctly point out, has acted decisively. You've got about a $60 billion cut. The Senate hasn't done anything, and what you're saying is the White House hasn't done anything either. So sit down with the Senate, with the president. You need all three to work out a deal, and work out a deal.

The American people want that, right?

CANTOR: Well, again, the American people know where the House Republicans are, and frankly over 100 Democrats voted with us.

BLITZER: But you're going to have to compromise if you want to get it through the Senate and the president is going to sign it into law.

CANTOR: Well, we don't know if that is true or not because we don't know where Harry Reid is. We don't know where the president is.

BLITZER: But you'll find out when you meet with them tomorrow?

CANTOR: Well, yes. I'm asking, why is it that the Senate has not acted? Why is it that the president has not put --

BLITZER: The Senate never acts. You know that.

CANTOR: Listen --

BLITZER: The House of Representatives is decisive. The Senate, the way the Constitution and the founding fathers wanted it, they are much more of a deliberative body.

CANTOR: Well, listen, I think the American people expect Washington to act. The American people expect us to tighten the belt and to stop the wasteful spending. That's what the election was about, because people want to get back to work. And we see this as a necessary element in trying to grow this economy again and get people back to work.

BLITZER: All right. So you are all going to sit down tomorrow. Is that right?

CANTOR: I've received no formal invitation for any meeting at all. We're always willing to talk, for sure.

BLITZER: All right. We'll be watching very closely.

Eric Cantor has got a tough job.

And you're doing -- you're doing what the House of Representatives always has done, especially when you have a decisive majority as you do. You guys can act.

The Senate, a lot, lot slower. Then you've got to get the president to sign off. Not easy, as you know.

CANTOR: Well, listen, Wolf, we're talking about leading, and we believe that the American people want some real leadership. They want some honest discussion about the problems facing America and want to see actions to counter those problems.

BLITZER: Good luck.

CANTOR: That's what we believe we're doing.

BLITZER: We're all counting on you guys to save this budget and get this country moving again. Appreciate you joining us.

CANTOR: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Eric Cantor is the majority leader in the House of Representatives.


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