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CNN "The Situation Room" - Transcript


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Let's talk about this with the House majority leader, Eric Cantor. He's joining us from Capitol Hill.

Is there going to be a deal or no deal? Will 160 million Americans lose that payroll tax cut come January 1st, or are you ready to make a deal?

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: Well, Wolf, you know, I hope not. And the House is committed to continuing to work until Congress approves a year-long guarantee to the working people of this country that they are not going to have a tax increase.

The two-month plan that was passed by the Senate has now been deemed unworkable by the National Payroll Reporting Consortium, who sent up to Capitol Hill this letter. And basically, it's saying that the Senate plan will provide more uncertainty, confusion, and will actually hurt workers.

And I don't think anybody really thinks that it is a good way to implement policy on a two-month basis. And again, that's what we are saying. It's time for the Senate to come back to town, to do what it is that the president said we should be doing, which is to provide that year-long guarantee that taxes are not going to go up for working people.

BLITZER: Here is what the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, said, and I'll put it up on the screen. He said, "When we met last week, Speaker Boehner requested that Senator McConnell" -- he's the Republican leader in the Senate -- "and I work out a compromise. Neither side got everything they wanted, but we forged a middle ground that passed the Senate by an overwhelming bipartisan majority."

Here is the question. Isn't two months better than nothing?

CANTOR: Well, we can do better than two months. I don't think there's anybody who said that a two-month tax policy or health care policy is the way we ought to go. And we can do this.

I mean, when negotiations broke off, Wolf, you know, we were close. And I think that we can do this.

And the working people of this country deserve more. And they deserve better. They deserve to be going into Christmas, in the new year, knowing full well that their taxes are not going to go up and them the entire year. That's what the president has asked for, and that's what we in the Congress and the House are committed to doing, is to working together to reach the compromise that will guarantee that people are not going to see their taxes go up for the full year.

BLITZER: But if you need some more time to finesse, to work out a deal, instead of letting it lapse on January 1st, continue the negotiations for another two months. It simply continues the tax cut which is already in place. It's been in place over this past year.

CANTOR: Right. We can do this, Wolf. We can do this. We've got two weeks to do it. And again, we don't need any more uncertainty.

And all sides I think agree that a year-long tax guarantee that taxes don't go up is much better. And again, you see the people who are in the business saying that this plan that's passed by the Senate, this 16-day plan, is just unworkable. It's not a tenable position to take.

And I think that Harry Reid is going to have to call the Senate back to get down to work with us so we can resolve this for the working families and taxpayers of the country. And I think we'll all be better off.

BLITZER: A lot of Senate Republicans, a whole bunch of them, are coming out strongly against you, the Republican leadership in the House. Scot Brown, the Republican senator from Massachusetts, said this: "The House Republicans' plan to scuttle the deal to help middle class families is irresponsible and wrong. I appreciate their effort to extend these measures for a full year, but a two-month extension is a good deal when it means we avoid jeopardizing the livelihoods of millions of American families."

That Republican Senator Scott Brown.

What do you want to say to Senator Brown?

CANTOR: I think you'll also see in Senator Brown's statements that he supports coming together in conference committee and working out the differences. Now, I think that's all we're asking.

No one is saying, "My way or the highway." We're saying, we can do this, we really can. We shouldn't be going on vacation, we shouldn't be taking holiday here until we get the work done for the people of this country.

And I think that there is pretty much agreement that one year can be done. We don't need to be governing in two-month increments. People can't live their lives like that. Small businesspeople can't, working people can't. Families have got to know what their tax liability is.

Let's go ahead and remove the uncertainty. Let's provide what it is the working people of this country need. Enough is enough, Wolf. And I think we can get this done.

BLITZER: I want to just put up on the screen what's at stake, because a lot of viewers may be confused right now. A hundred and sixty million people stand to lose if you guys don't get the job done by December 31st.

Right now, if you make $35,000 a year, you'd have to pay an additional $700; $50,000, an additional $1,000 to the government; $75,000, $1,500; $90,000, $1,800. If you make $106,800, you pay $2,100 extra. If you make more than $110,000, you pay $2,300. That's the maximum on the payroll tax.

That's a lot of money.

CANTOR: Wolf, nobody wants those taxes to go into effect. That's what we are here talking about right now. No one does.

And I'll tell you, if the Senate doesn't come back -- if the Senate doesn't come back into town, they're going to have a lot of answering to do to the taxpayers of this country, because I think what you will see tonight is a rejection of the Senate position because we know it's unworkable. And we've got a better way, and we are asking the Senate to come sit down, let's talk and get this straight so the American people and small businesses can know what their tax situation is next year and be guaranteed that taxes are not going to go up.

BLITZER: You know, in the CBS poll that came out, and now another Gallup poll that has just come out, they asked about the approval of Congress. "Do you think Congress is doing a good job or a bad job?"

Approval number for Congress right now is only 11 percent, Mr. Leader. Only 11 percent of the American public approve of the job that Congress is doing. What does that say to you?

CANTOR: Well, do you blame them? I mean, here you've got the White House, you've got the Senate Democrats and Republicans, and you have us in the House saying that we all feel that a year's extension of the payroll tax holiday is where we should go, but yet you have got the Senate passing a 60-day version and leaving town. I mean, do you blame the people for sitting there scratching their heads, wondering what's going on in Washington?

That's what we've got to end, Wolf. We've got to start working together and really showing the people that we get it.

They're tired of hearing reasons why things can't be done in Washington. And we are saying that we are willing to work together to try and produce results. And that's exactly what the discussion and the vote tonight is about in the House.

BLITZER: Well, we hope that you guys, the House and the Senate Democrats and Republicans, Independents out there, can get the job done between now and December 31st, because a lot of folks are going to be hurting if you don't. So, good luck, Mr. Leader.

CANTOR: Thank you, Wolf.


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