OTR Interviews

Cantor: Obama's 'Playing Bully Politics' and 'We're Calling His Bluff'

House Majority leader on the latest in the debt talks, what's needed to break the deadlock

 

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," July 26, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Earlier today, we spoke with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VAN SUSTEREN: Congressman, nice to see you, sir.

REP. ERIC CANTOR, R-Va., HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: Good to be with you always, Greta.

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VAN SUSTEREN: OK, the vote's tomorrow, right, on the Boehner bill?

CANTOR: Right.

VAN SUSTEREN: Head count -- going to win or not?

CANTOR: We're going to do it. We're going to win. We've got some work yet to do. You know, listen, this is a terribly anxious time for the country right now because if you look at where we are, over the last six months, we've actually begun to make some progress changing the way this town does business. And I believe that's what the Republican majority was elected to do, is to force Washington to stop spending money it doesn't have.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, in that instance, you're talking -- I mean, the new GOP freshmen who ran on the campaign balanced budget amendment, which is not exactly part of the Boehner bill -- that's a problem because they're not going to be voting with you likely tomorrow.

CANTOR: Well, you know, I think a lot of the folks that have just come to join us realize that there are really three options right now. One is to push us past August 2nd, which many believe will bring on default. I think most people would say there is unknown risk. Who knows? The markets are very uncertain right now as to what exactly that means. So that's one option, which I think is unacceptable.

The second option is to go with Harry Reid's plan. Harry Reid's plan is basically giving the president a blank check, giving him what he wants, a blind increase of the debt ceiling to spend money the way he wants.

And the fact is, it's his spending and the promotion of his policies that have wrecked this economy. So what we say, the third option is, let's go about making sure that we're dollar for dollar, increase the debt limit but only if you got commensurate cuts to go along with that. And because the Democrats will not agree with enough cuts to give the president all that he wants, because they want to raise taxes with those cuts, we've agreed to a $1.2 trillion increase, or cuts, to afford a $900 billion dollar increase.

And what our plan does, though, is it forces the president back to the table, kicking and screaming about taxes and spending in an election year, which he does not want to do. I mean, that's the essence of the president's position. He doesn't want to have to mess with it while he's running for reelection.

VAN SUSTEREN: But the operative word is "we." I mean, who -- the "we" has got to be 217 "we's" in the House. And if you've got this Tea Party contingency of Republican members of Congress who ran on a balanced budget amendment who refuse, you may not get that 217, so you don't have that "we" to do what you want to do.

CANTOR: Well, we are going to have a vote on a balanced budget amendment this week.

VAN SUSTEREN: Will that satisfy them so they would vote for the so-called "Boehner Bill" tomorrow?

CANTOR: Well, what the speaker's bill has in it is a provision to force a vote on a balanced budget in the Senate.

VAN SUSTEREN: Does that satisfy them?

CANTOR: Well, that's been the problem thus far is the Senate won't take up a balanced budget vote! So I think a lot of the people who have come here to Washington to change the way things are done, they know that a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution is what we need!

VAN SUSTEREN: But are they satisfied if there's going to be -- I mean, if the Boehner bill says that there will be a vote on that, are they willing to vote for the Boehner bill so that tomorrow, you can get even to that step?

CANTOR: I think they are because what our bill does is it calls the president's bluff. You know, when John Boehner and I were at the White House, the president turned to us and he said, you know, he said to me, Eric, don't call my bluff.

And it was in response to a suggestion that I had made which said, Look, Mr. President, we're so far apart on these figures. You want to raise taxes in order to facilitate spending cuts. We want to cut. We want to stop the spending. That's the real problem here. But because we're so far apart, can you consider coming off your insistence that we extend the credit limit of the country beyond the election? What does that have to do with the fiscal health of the country, which we're trying to address so we can get people back to work?

That's when he really got agitated and upset and saying that he was going to take it to the American people and don't call his bluff. Well, again, we're about...

VAN SUSTEREN: Was that last night's speech? Was that calling your bluff?

CANTOR: I think it was a response to what we are doing, which is taking it to the president and saying, Look, we want to work together, Mr. President. We are not playing games here. We've got serious matters. People are out of work. You've got unemployment at 9.2 percent. We've got to get the fiscal house in order. And stop your policies in Washington that are wrecking the economy! That's what we want to do.

So let's come together, find some common ground. We know the spending is the problem here. Let's focus on that and not try and score political points and not worry about the reelection for the presidential campaign, as he has put as a priority, and instead trying to address what's really going on here, which is too much spending.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, answer these two hypotheticals. One is that you don't have the votes tomorrow and that the Boehner bill goes down. Then what happens? The second thing is that, let's say the Boehner bill does pass and let's say, miraculously, from your perspective -- at least I think it's miraculous -- that the Senate passes it, it goes to the president, whose senior White House administration has just told Ed Henry, who works with us, that there is no wiggle room, that it would be vetoed. So tell me what happens with those two scenarios.

CANTOR: Again, the president did not say in his speech last night that he would veto the Boehner bill, and I'm operating on that assumption, that the president would not force a collapse on August 2nd and bring on potential chaos. I don't think the president will do that.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAN SUSTEREN: And straight ahead: It's no secret Leader Cantor and President Obama have had some very testy exchanges lately. Don't they like each other? And what has been going on behind closed doors between Leader Cantor and President Obama? Leader Cantor will you coming up.

And what about the "Gang of Six" plan? Could it be back in play? Leader Cantor talks about that, too.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAN SUSTEREN: And here's more of our interview with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CANTOR: They're playing bully politics. We heard the president last night. You know, again, he's talking about taxing billionaires, millionaires, corporate jet owners. That has nothing to do with the discussion right now. We know the class warfare that he's engaged in.

It's not what Republicans are about. Republicans are about trying to straighten out the tax code, fill the loopholes, but bring down rates for everybody. That is in contrast to what the president has been insisting, which is to raise taxes on the job creators, the small businesses that Republicans are trying to help get back into the game to get people back to game.

So again, I think the scenario is, one, we pass the Boehner bill. It can get to the president. I believe that the bill has in there the terms that were discussed with the Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, with provisions that he likes in there.

VAN SUSTEREN: So the only one who's against it is President Obama?

CANTOR: President Obama's the only one that doesn't get what he wants in this bill, which is a vote that he doesn't -- that will take him through the election so he doesn't have to talk about spending cuts and taxes again while in an election year. Again, since when is that the dictator of what we've got to do to get the fiscal health of this country right?

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, suppose that the Boehner bill doesn't pass tomorrow. Suppose you can get the Republican members of Congress who've made these promises about the balanced budget amendment to vote with you and you can't peel off enough Democrats. What happens then?

CANTOR: Well, I think that's, again, one of the three options here. You got default or you got...

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, you're not going to...

CANTOR: ... going up through August 2nd. You've got -- you've got our plan or you've got Harry Reid's plan. And if nothing else, the Harry Reid plan is sitting over there. Harry Reid does not have the votes right now for that plan, which is why it's so important that the House act, we go on offense and we say, Mr. President, we have compromised yet again because if you recall, I was one who said months earlier, we can't sustain two votes in the House. Let's go ahead and get all the cuts done now.

And the president said, "No, we need to raise taxes instead." So that's when we came back off the position and said, Fine, let's do this incrementally. But we're going to insist that we not increase the credit limit without sufficient cuts to go along with it. We don't want to give you a blank check, Mr. President.

VAN SUSTEREN: What does he say when you say things like this to him?

CANTOR: He gets very agitated. And he's gotten very agitated with me on several occasions.

VAN SUSTEREN: I don't think he's wild about you right. Maybe you guys are friends earlier and maybe friends later, but doesn't look right now that you're going to be playing golf together.

CANTOR: I think it's -- we have a professional, cordial relationship. And again, I've been through this before with the president when we were discussing the stimulus bill. The president doesn't like people who differ with him on policy grounds. I saw that in the White House.

We just come from different world views. You know, I'm a small businessperson, and I know that the prosperity in this country is connected to entrepreneurs that are willing to go out there and take risks. What's gone on in this administration I think reflects the president's view of the world, that government is in place to promulgate rules and regulations that somehow settle scores. And in the process, what he's done is he's taken away all incentive for entrepreneurs and small businesses to have that optimism again to go out and create jobs.

We've got to be focused on that. So we got to stop the spending and the promotion of these policies that are wrecking the economy and start focusing on what most people want, which is to get back to work.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is the "Gang of Six" bill just out of play? We spoke to Senator Mark Warner, and he talks about even his experience when he was governor of Virginia how they lowered the tax rates and got more revenue and his -- you know, it's a rather -- you know, another -- it's rather comprehensive and a whole 'nother bill. Is that out of place?

CANTOR: Mark Warner -- Mark Warner raised taxes in Virginia, OK?

VAN SUSTEREN: He says he lowered them.

CANTOR: No, he -- I mean, I think the record will show -- as you know, I'm from Virginia.

VAN SUSTEREN: No, I know you are.

CANTOR: Mark Warner...

VAN SUSTEREN: Still are!

CANTOR: Mark Warner raised taxes in Virginia. And the "Gang of Six" bill, if you look at the revenue -- additional revenues that it calls for, as well as the rates that it calls for on the individual level, there's no question that taxes will go up in that bill.

And I think where the taxes go up are the fact that you're going to get rid a lot of the mortgage interest deductions, charitable deductions. But most importantly, I don't think you can sustain the difference between the capital gains rate and ordinary income. And so you'll see capital gains rates go way back up, and I believe that the capital gains rate lower than that which is ordinary is one of the most generative (ph) policies that we can have. You want to put incentives in place so that people, small business people, can put their capital at risk. That's what capital gains taxes are about, is you want to lower them.

You know, other countries now that are our competitors have much lower if no capital gains taxes. And we don't want to be disadvantaged. Again, that's the engine of America, the ability for entrepreneurs to invest and to create value and jobs. We want to put incentives in place. We don't want to raise those taxes. I believe the "gang of six" plan will raise capital gains rates.

VAN SUSTEREN: Congressman, thank you. And as you know, we'll be watching.

CANTOR: Thank you, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: Thank you, sir.

(END VIDEOTAPE)