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Transcript: Majority Leader Cantor's Pen & Pad with Majority Whip McCarthy


Location: Washington, DC

Mr. Cantor: Good afternoon. Welcome. We are going to do a little bit of a different opening here. As you can see, I have with me my good friend and colleague, the Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy. First, I would ask you to turn your attention to the screen. We are going to start with a little bit of a video here.


President Obama: I'm going to keep on talking to Eric Cantor. Some day, sooner or later, he's going to say, "Boy, Obama had a good idea." It's going to happen. (August 2009)

President Obama: The last thing you want to do is to raise taxes in the middle of a recession because that would just suck up -- take more demand out of the economy and put businesses in a further hole. (February 2009)

Mr. Cantor: You could say that there was an idea, with that discussion with the President that we could agree on: that you ought not be raising taxes during a recession. I guess now, as we have seen yesterday, the President now disagrees with himself. As you know, the President came out yesterday strongly in favor of increasing taxes in his proposal in the Rose Garden speech yesterday. He called it the so-called Buffett Rule, and that name I guess insinuates that somehow it is a tax only on millionaires. Frankly, it is a tax on investment. It is a tax on small business job creators. We have had this debate now for some time, while the economy continues to falter.

We have to start making it easier for small businesses to create jobs so that the unemployed can get back to work. What this tax does is it provides a barrier for small business people to put their capital to work. It is investment capital. And you know, we've seen stories in the press today about the President saying that this is a tax we need. Ultimately, it is investment capital we need to flow into this country to start generating economic activity again. So you hurt investors, you hurt small businesses, and you actually hurt the workers who are trying to get back to work, because there are going to be no jobs if you keep providing these kind of disincentives.

I can't really make sense of why the President thinks he should be doing this, maybe he thinks it is good politics. I think the policy is so wrong for the times. We have a terrible, terrible economy, too many people are out of work. You look at the proposal that he is pushing, he is raising taxes on charities. We know that, that is the effect of the limit on the ability to itemize deductions. Again, who thinks that is a good policy when you need charities to be there for people who are out of work and on bad times? His proposal limits the ability to deduct mortgage interest. Again, with the housing market the way it is, who is going to buy the houses that are out there? Who is going to buy the houses from the seniors who need to sell their homes at this point? How can young people even begin to think about it if the President's policies were going to go into effect?

Not only that, I am troubled by the President's and the White House's posture that somehow they say the time to work together is over. I think you saw yesterday the White House was quoted as saying, "We were in a position of legislative compromise by necessity," in talking about the debt ceiling discussions. "That phase is behind us." I take exception with that position. I don't think it is responsible. What the American people are looking for are results. We have to figure out how to work together to get some results. I know many of you in this room were sort of taken aback two weeks ago when I came in and I said you know what, we reject the President's all or nothing approach here, that we do want to work together, we do want to try and set aside the big differences that we have, and find some areas of commonality. We are serious. I know Kevin is here thinking the same thing. We understand when we go home and talk to the people we represent, they are hurting, and they want to see the rancor reduced. They want to stop seeing all the politics and the posturing. They want to see us get something done.

I have enumerated several times where I think we can work together. The President talks about small business tax relief. We think that is a good idea if you want to get entrepreneurs back into the game of start ups and job creation. We think we can work together on regulatory relief. As you know, we have a bill coming to the floor this week that tries to put in place some sensible regulatory policy when it comes to the EPA and the cost benefit analysis and impact on jobs. We have also pointed out that we want to work together on reforming the unemployment benefit system in this country. We pointed to examples, as has the President, of ways in which we can do that as well. We also said we want to work together on the infrastructure issue. We may not agree with forming an infrastructure bank, but we do feel there is a lot of progress to be made when you are talking about reducing red tape and reforming the process of permitting. These are areas that we can work together. I hope that the President can resume a posture of wanting to lead so that we can try and deliver some results for the American people.

Now, this week on the House floor we have got the Continuing Resolution (CR) that is up. Again, we have committed to make sure that we pass that, and that we deliver the much needed disaster relief to the victims of the latest disasters. We also will continue, as I said before, with our regulatory reform agenda, getting impediments out of the way if we want to see small businesses prosper and job growth begin by voting on the TRAIN Act. We have bipartisan support for this legislation. Again, something that we are very, very much focused on, what we think is first things first, and that is getting Washington out of the business of making it difficult to conduct business in this country. With that, I want to turn it over to the Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, who along with the Budget Chairman Paul Ryan and I, are going to be together next Monday at Facebook meeting with Mark Zuckerberg, and also hosting a Town Hall with them on Monday there. So with that, Kevin.

Mr. McCarthy: Thank you, Mr. Leader. I think the Leader pointed out very clearly we are more than willing to work with the President where we can work together. And if you look at where this country is, there is nobody on any side of the aisle, no matter where you are registered, that doesn't believe jobs need to be created. If you look at the matrix of America and who creates jobs, it is very simple, it is small business. If you go back to the end of the last recession and the beginning of this one, it takes you to 2001 to 2007. If you talk to Americans, they think that was a job growth time in this country. But if you analyze who created jobs during that time, if you were a company and you had fewer than 500 employees, you added seven million jobs. If you were a company and you had 500 employees or more, you cut a million during that time. So what you need is job creation.

And today we are at our lowest point in 16 years for new start ups and entrepreneurs. Adding a tax does not create one new job. And no one in America believes it. So now is the opportunity to stop playing politics and really get down to brass tacks that we can work together on issues that create small businesses. We are here for regulatory reform, we are here for tax relief for small business, we are here for job creation. And we welcome the opportunity to work with the other side of the aisle on it. But we don't want to play more political games when the rest of the country knows that is exactly what is going forward.

This weekend I was down in South Carolina. I toured from the hospital to Boeing. I watched thousands of jobs get created there at Boeing. I have watched what we passed just last week, the idea that the federal government is trying to ship more jobs overseas when Boeing is sitting there creating jobs in South Carolina and throughout the country. These are the things that we should work towards, creation, not punishment. If there is anything I found in California, if you punish wealth creation, you get less of it. If you reward government assistance, you get more of it. One scary fact, if it makes you feel better and you want to live in another state, California has 37 million people. Twelve percent of the entire nation lives in California. We also have 32 percent of whoever is on welfare lives in California as well. We get 25 percent of our entire budget from 144,000 people out of 37 million. And what you find each and every year is people leave. If you punish it, you get less of it. We should start rewarding it, so we grow more jobs. And we don't want the federal government to go down the same path.

Mr. Cantor: Thank you. Questions.

Q: I wanted to ask you about the disaster relief situation. It seems the two Chambers are heading down different paths on that, even as the CR needs to get passed. I wonder how you see that playing out and how much of a sticking point that is going to be.

Mr. Cantor: You know, the House bill has in it the disaster relief that the President requested and then some. As you know, we provide for a billion dollars in emergency relief. And starting the new fiscal year on October 1, we also provide an additional $2.6 billion that will be available for delivering on the needs that the people are asking for us to address. You have $3.6 billion combined there in the bill. The CR is going to be written at the level that we agreed at in terms of the debt ceiling agreement.

Q: Mr. Cantor, Harry Reid said that he has bipartisan support, including upwards of I believe nine Republican Senators, who supported his FEMA bill. He says he is going to add that on there. If that goes forward with bipartisan support in the Senate, can you strike it down?

Mr. Cantor: I am going to turn it over and ask the Whip to respond to that question, I can tell you that we are delivering on the disaster relief that has been requested. No one will go without their needs being addressed. The House bill at $1.043 is what we agreed to, and I'll turn it over to the Whip for the vote.

Mr. McCarthy: $1.043 is the agreement that Republicans and Democrats came to. We provide relief even more than what is being requested right now through there. What Reid is do being is playing politics with it. We do not want to hold up relief for any individual. That is why in the CR will take care of it and move it through.

Q: Leader Cantor, Whip Hoyer just said that at his pen and pad an hour or two ago that he is not certain Democrats are going to support this bill because of the $1.5 billion that would be cut from the green technology, or energy efficient vehicles program. With the 50 House Republicans who are saying they are not going to support this because they want deeper cuts, will you be able to pass the bill?

Mr. Cantor: Again I will just say, and I will let Kevin speak to the vote count, I am sure he is not going to disclose that, but I will say that, you know, Steny said in his colloquy with me last week that he was going to support the bill. Clearly, there is a game of politics being played here. The House is going to act. We are going to deliver the money to the victims of the disasters. All of you know my district was particularly affected, first by the earthquake, and then by the high winds associated with Irene. There is no question that the money will be delivered. This is all about a political game for Harry Reid. I know Steny Hoyer understands that. Steny Hoyer also understands that we need to move on disaster relief, and do so responsibly.

Q: Leader Cantor, as far as the President's jobs bill is concerned, has there been any move, as far as what you have seen on the Democrat side, of anyone filing that bill on the floor as far as what you have seen?

Mr. Cantor: You know, all I have seen is many Democrats express some reservations about the President's plan. Again, it goes back to do you want to grow the government or do you want to grow the private sector? I think we desperately need to grow the private sector here. That is what the people want to see. They want to see small businesses get back into the game, just like Kevin said. The fact that start ups in this country are at an abysmal low is unacceptable. That is what I am hearing, that our colleagues on the other side of the aisle are not embracing the all or nothing approach. And I think many of them understand you don't raise taxes if you want to produce economic growth, which is what we need right now.

Q: So nothing has been filed as of yet?

Mr. Cantor: Not to my knowledge.

Mr. McCarthy: But it is not just the Members on the other side of the aisle. If you take the polling across the country, so it is very reflective of where the country is, too, on his all or nothing plan. The American public is not supporting it either.

Q: Mr. Cantor, at the heart of President Obama's plan seems to be this distinction between labor income taxation and capital investment income taxation. So I guess what is the rationale or what is the policy imperative behind say, you know, just put it in the starkest terms, a second generation trust fund baby living off of investment income being taxed at a lower rate than say a ditch digger?

Mr. Cantor: Investment income, investment capital is what is needed right now to get an economy going again. When you raise taxes on capital, you impact workers. We are all in this together. We don't have some separate engine out there that continues to hum. Workers are relying on small businesses that are related to other businesses small and large in this economy of ours. We need to provide a better environment to see that the capital goes to work in this country. And while we are having this debate, we have competitors out there across the globe who get it, who have actually reduced capital gains income tax rates because they understand: inflow of capital into their countries helps grow their economies. That is what we are saying. Raising taxes crushes job creation. Raising taxes on capital income thwarts capital investment. That is a nonsensical approach if you want to grow the economy.

Q: Mr. Cantor, I am curious. On the Super Committee, a lot of people are taking a lot of things off the table. You guys have taken tax increases off the table. The President said no major entitlement reforms without tax increases. People don't want defense spending cuts because of cuts already. Given all of that, it seems like nondefense discretionary is going to be hit the hardest. I am curious about your take on that. How would you come to 1.2 given that? And you do you support a lot of people say 4 trillion do you support that?

Mr. Cantor: I will let Kevin speak in just a minute. First of all, we put forward our budget, and we were over $6 trillion in savings. If you want to talk about what we want, absolutely, we want to see real tax reform. We put forward in our budget real entitlement reform that actually is a multi-generational fix in entitlement reform. The President is not interested in that. He said now he is not even interested in kicking the can, which is the age-adjustment. Again, I would ask where is the leadership on that? But as far as the Joint Select Committee is concerned, my hope is that they can reach the goal of accomplishing the $1.4 trillion in cuts that was mandated in the debt ceiling agreement.

Again, we have demonstrated, through the work of the Biden committee, that group produced a blueprint. It certainly could provide a starting point. If the President says no entitlement reform now, we believe strongly you don't want to try and address the federal deficit crisis by raising taxes, which makes it more difficult to address the jobs crisis. Fine. Let's go about the kind of work we did. And basically, it is in the non-health care mandatory area, as well as trying to address some of the inefficiencies and waste in the other mandatory areas, including health care. I think that we can do this if the President actually can reverse course and say he is going to work together with us. That is the problem.

Mr. McCarthy: The only thing I would say, each week the President puts a new criteria onto the committee. The first week was he requested that they cut more. Now he has requested that you tax more. I think what the Leader brings up is that the work that was done in the Biden meetings with the Leader and with Senator Kyl is a framework to start from. There is a lot there that showed bipartisan agreement. I think that is a good starting point on the way to go forward. I would let the committee do some work before the President puts out a new requirement upon them and see where they are able to go.

Q: Following up on his question, let's assume that the President in fact does not take a different position, in referring to the parameters that have been set by the committees. If there are these lines in the sand, people are pretty firm about them, if for example what Senator Kyl said about defense, what was different about any of these other committees and your efforts and the Speaker's efforts with the President before? Why would there be anything different at this particular juncture for this committee?

Mr. Cantor: What happened in the Biden discussions is that it broke down on the question of tax rate increases. The same discussion that the President prompted yesterday occurred back then. We need to stay away from that discussion because tax rate increases right now are a job killer. We all know that we don't want to go and make it more difficult to help the job and economic crisis. The discussions that we had, and frankly the discussions that some of the other committees had up until that point of how to achieve some savings on the mandatory side of the ledger were productive. They provide a blueprint for how to get to that $1.4 trillion without getting into the areas of strong disagreement. That is really the goal right now. We understand and I think the American people understand that the two sides are not going to agree on everything. In fact, they are not going to agree on a lot. But there are some things that we can agree on together. And we have got to show the ability to rise above the differences and do so. That is why the President and the White House's position that they took yesterday, that the time for working together is over, is really an untenable and unacceptable posture to take.

Q: Mr. Cantor, why have you stopped bringing appropriations bills to the floor?

Mr. Cantor: I think the question to ask is what is the Senate doing on appropriations bills?

Q: But I am asking you. I know the Senate is doing nothing. But why aren't you bringing appropriations bills to the floor? The House has always prided itself on being able to do its work. You talk about regular order. So why isn't the House doing it?

Mr. Cantor: Well, again, the House is going to deliver on the things that we have got to do right now. First and foremost, it is about jobs. We made a concerted effort, when we got back here a couple weeks ago, to focus on what the American people want to focus on, and it is job creation. It is taking barriers out of the way for small businesses to create jobs. That is why we are doing what we are doing every week on the floor now.

Q: Right. But there is a lot of time on the floor. You left on Thursday early afternoon, you are getting back at 6:30 tonight. Why not do some appropriations work? Is it because you don't have the votes to pass them? Mr. McCarthy could address that.

Mr. Cantor: Maybe Kevin will. You know good and well that the schedule we put in place and the calendar this year is not that all day is free for discussion, because we tried to reserve time for the committees to actually do their work. They are going to be doing their work on some of these jobs proposals. Some of the things that we laid out and the leadership sent out in our memo, the committees are taking a look at, and are going to be reviewing the potential for us to get these jobs bills across the floor.

Mr. McCarthy: I also take with the premise that you asked the question, we have been moving them across the floor. We also had some other things that were beyond our control that hit a timeline that had to come up during the year: a debt limit discussion, a CR discussion. The committees still have to do their work, which they are doing. You will find that some have passed off the floor, and they will continue to come back up.

Mr. Cantor: As you know, the committee is going about marking up all 12 bills. We have done and completed six in the House all in the middle of the seventh. But again, the question is where is the Senate on this? You know, that is why we are going do this CR, and hopefully we can work together to try and produce a spending package and bills that reflect the 1.043 number that we have agreed upon.

Mr. McCarthy: But the only point I want to come back to is this, because you asked that question, was look at the numbers of bills we passed out of this House that create jobs that sit on the Senate, when that is the number one priority. Look how fast we passed a budget that came out of here that sits over in the Senate that has not done one in 2 years. So as we continue to move these appropriations bills, are they just going to sit in the Senate or are they going to go somewhere?

Q: Mr. Leader, a handful of conservatives are questioning whether the leadership can actually pass the CR before the end of the month. And Louie Gohmert has filed a discharge petition to have his bill that would ensure the military get paid in the event of the government shutdown. He has filed a discharge petition. Seventeen Republicans have signed it. I am wondering why hasn't his bill moved through the committee? Are you going to take it up on the floor to prevent any sort of

Mr. Cantor: All I will say to that, Molly, is no one is intending to bring about a government shutdown here. I think the country has sort of seen enough of that. The two sides have demonstrated a real difference as far as cutting spending is concerned. We are going to try and focus on where we can come together to pass the CR and to continue to focus on job creation, which is so desperately needed.

Q: Mr. Cantor, do you still expect the CR to be passed at this point by the end of the week? And is there any chance you would actually pass a CR without the offsets for the fiscal year 2011 money.

Mr. Cantor: The CR will pass the House. Again, as I said before, it has in the bill the disaster funding relief from an emergency standpoint, twice that that was requested by the Administration. We have in it an additional $2.6 billion that is the 2012 money that will be front loaded for the agencies to access for the disaster relief needs. So clearly, we are providing the relief that the victims of the disaster need and the agencies will have available to it, and deliver it on time. I see us driving forward towards that end, and then focusing on what we need to focus on, which is the jobs and the economy.

Q: Mr. Leader, do you feel, though I mean you were very critical of Leader Reid here. You know, it is clear that you can pass this through the House tomorrow. But if Reid does what he has suggested he is going to do there, and there is this question about the offsets, I know what happened in the House when this bill came through on the homeland bill earlier this year. With that said, doesn't that create a problem as we get toward the end of the week, or bleeding into next week, and you say no one intends to have a government shutdown?

Mr. Cantor: It will be on Leader Reid's shoulders, because he is the one playing politics with it. No one wants to stand in the way of disaster relief monies that are needed. There is nothing else but politics going on with that move if that is what happens.

Q: Mr. Leader, I know you have spoken to this in the past, but I just want to check in with you on the U.N. How is the House going to react if the U.N. goes ahead with this vote on the Palestinian statehood at the end of the week? Of course you have the resolution. Will the House act to defund the PA or take some other action? What is going to happen?

Mr. Cantor: You know the House has passed a resolution, as you suggest or implied in your question, and has taken the position that we don't believe that it is at all helpful for the Palestinian Authority to go forward unilaterally to the U.N. We coupled that disapproval with any suggestion that the Palestinian Authority should be married up with Hamas and expect to receive U.S. taxpayer assistance. So we will wait and see. I hope that that doesn't happen in the United Nations, because I think it is very damaging to the prospects for the parties to sit down at the negotiating table. Our policy has been, and should be that the United States stands squarely on the side of Israel. Because we are supportive of those who support peace. Israel has demonstrated it again and again. And I think there is a bipartisan sense on Capitol Hill towards that end.

Q: Mr. Leader, just to follow up on the CR, you just said it would be on Leader Reid's shoulders. Does that mean the House will leave town when you pass the CR and send it to the Senate, and there is no room for negotiation on the FEMA money?

Mr. Cantor: Again, there is nothing but politics involved if Harry Reid wants to go and play these games. We are delivering the monies that are needed. We have twice what is requested from an emergency standpoint, and front loading all of 2012 monies to the agencies to access right now.

Q: So the 3.6, you are not in a position, you are not saying you are open to any additional level?

Mr. McCarthy: Listen. From understanding of the floor, the votes, if Reid does what he does, I don't see the votes on the floor for it. So he is holding up the ability for individuals to get the relief. They have it in the CR. It will pass out of here and go to the Senate. If Reid wants to play politics with it, I think that is wrong, and I think it is shame on him.

Q: Your floor or the Senate floor, just to be clear? You said you don't see the votes on the floor. The House floor?

Mr. McCarthy: The House floor.

Q: Mr. Leader, you had been critical 2 weeks ago of a report that FEMA aid would be tied to a pay for, that it wouldn't be that it would tied to pay fors immediately, that people might get aid held up in any way. Is that not what ended up happening? Was that a change? The impression we were getting 2 weeks ago is that there might be a clean vote and the pay fors to come, and a separate vote on the CR.

Mr. Cantor: I think the discussion back then would probably prompt my same response. Let's not conflate the two issues here. There is an issue of emergency funding, which is the context for the pay for discussion, and there is that which we budget for. The emergency funding is offset, and we did so responsibly. The budgeted for amounts is for the fiscal year 2012 number, front loaded so the agency can access monies if it needs it.

Q: Just back to job growth, can you quantify how many jobs could be created or how much the unemployment rate could be lowered if say, for example, your fall regulatory agenda was to go through and become law? Can you give us some sense of the goals of job growth in terms of a number?

Mr. Cantor: On the trade end, we know and the Administration has also agreed, that if we can get the trade bills sent up here you could see maybe a quarter of a million jobs created in the next 18 months. As far as you are asking us to pin down an exact number of jobs, it is not the government that creates jobs here. I also think the expectations that are set in a way that the Administration tried to do when it passed the stimulus also are something that the public is tired of. Let's stop overpromising and underperforming, and why don't we begin to set the sights in a reasonable way so we can get the economy going again and re instill some confidence? I think the expectation game around Washington has done the opposite. It has lessened the confidence of the public. We ought to make sure that we don't repeat that mistake.

Q: But if the American people are trying to assess where they might want to stand on these issues if they look at what the Administration is saying in terms of what it says can be done on job growth with infrastructure spending, you know, can you provide a counter of what your agenda would provide for jobs?

Mr. Cantor: I think there is something the American public doesn't want. One thing, raising taxes is not the right path for job creation. It kills jobs. It really thwarts investment. It is not what we need.

Q: Leader Cantor, just to get back to the CR issue, you are saying that it is absolutely a nonstarter to give up on the offsets for that $1 billion in immediate emergency relief, and that you will --

Mr. Cantor: I think we have said it about three or four times now.

Thank you.

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