Exclusive: Eric Cantor on 'Your World'

House majority leader on battle over FAA funding, debt fight


NEIL CAVUTO, HOST OF “YOUR WORLD”: All right, well, about that averted government shutdown, apparently not entire government -- the president wasting little time blaming Republicans today for leaving the FAA, well, kind of circling and thousands of FAA workers kind of wondering what is going to happen to them.

The Senate going on break without approving what would have been the 21st short-term funding extension for the airline authority. House Republicans passing that extension, but Senate Democrats object to some of the House provisions.

It’s very confusing. Suffice it to say many airlines are still collecting $28.6 million a day meant to fund the FAA, but right now not one penny is going to the FAA until this mess is resolved. The airlines, though, can -- can -- and many of them have -- kept this.

With me now in a Fox exclusive, the majority leader of the United States House of Representatives, Congressman Eric Cantor of the fine state of Virginia.

We did request an interview with his minority counterpart, Nancy Pelosi. She has declined.

Leader, very good to have you.

On this FAA thing, what’s going to happen here?

REP. ERIC CANTOR, R-VA., HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: Well, the Senate left town, failed to act. And it is pretty much par for the course. What we have seen over the last year in the Senate is its very difficult for them to get anything done.

The House passed the bill to extend the funding for the FAA. But what we did is we said, look, like everything else, we need to try and affect some reforms and reduce the spending. We all know we’re spending too much money, spending money we don’t have. So that is what was in the House bill, and the Senate’s refused to go along with it.

CAVUTO: All right. Now, you were also against provisions in there that would make it easier -- not you specifically, but the Republican Party -- that would make it easier for FAA workers to unionize. And that was a bone of contention and one of the reasons why the Senate said we just can’t take up this measure that objects to that.

So, where do we stand?

CANTOR: Well, you know that disagreement is really under the underlying bill. This was the extension, that that really is not part of this discussion. The issue about organization for labor has to do with being fair to both sides. And if you’re going to be fair to both sides, you ought to give both the employees, as well as the employer, equal opportunity to make the case.

But, again, that’s separate from this. This issue has to do with subsidies that the federal government is paying for what is called Essential Air Service to smaller communities around the country. And you have instances where the federal government is actually subsidizing a per- passenger rate of over $3,000 per passenger.

Now, you’ve got to wonder why we are doing that. If you have got to subsidize to that extent, maybe that community is close enough to some other airport that people could see their way to flying out of.

CAVUTO: All right, without belaboring this point, Congressman, the president was charging today that this is compromising safety, to say nothing of the jobs that are at risk here.

What do you say?

CANTOR: Well, you know, again, I would look towards the actual functioning of the airways and the airports right now.

Air traffic controllers are in -- are in their spot. And I doubt, honestly, that the people that work for the authority would allow for air traffic to fly if it were not safe.

CAVUTO: Do you then think it’s -- is it legal for airlines to still be collect these FAA fees, taxes, whatever we call them?

CANTOR: Well, you know, it’s not a question of legality. It’s a question of the fact that the authority, FAA, is not functioning right now. So they cannot levy the tax.

And what airlines have done is have stepped in and said, well, if we’re not going to pay that money to the federal government, we’re going to keep it towards our own bottom line. And I guess that’s what business does. And, again, I think it speaks to the fact that the Senate has not done its job, and it is costing the federal government and the taxpayer’s money. The Senate ought to return to Washington, take up the bill, and pass the House bill. We’ve done our work.

CAVUTO: All right.

On the bill itself to bring the debt down over the next 10 years, are you happy with the final figure? Many in the markets have expressed shock it was relatively small, half what, for example, some of the rating agencies had called for, at around $2.1 trillion. So, they wonder, gee, why did you push it to the limit with this?

CANTOR: Well, I think, Neil, nobody is really happy with this agreement. I certainly would say it’s not perfect at all. And we’ve got a lot of work to do to implement even that.

But all along, we had insisted that there not be any tax increases. And there are no tax increases in the bill. We had insisted, as the speaker had gone out and said consistently, that we’ve got to have at least as many cuts as that amount that we were going to raise the debt ceiling. That is the case with this measure as well.

And, also, we have an opportunity to keep the issue of deficit spending on the table, to keep the issue of job-killing policies that this spending is promoting on the table. And this president has got to come and defend that to the American people.

I don’t have to tell you. Your listeners and your viewers know how bad this economy is right now. And, unfortunately, the policies that the Obama administration is promoting aren’t doing much to give confidence to investors and small business in this country that America is open for business. And we’ve got to start doing that.

CAVUTO: Nevertheless, these things are always tiring and gut- wrenching, and a lot of bad things are said back and forth and a lot of ill will.

Are these next 18 months or so just going to be totally non-productive? I mean, the Republicans have one way of seeing and doing things. Democrats have another way of seeing and doing things. Just like a Mexican standoff?

CANTOR: Well, there clearly are two different world views at work here. There’s no question.

I mean, there are those on the other side of the aisle, the president and many in his party, who believe that we need to raise taxes right now. And if we’re going to cut and make the necessary cuts, they refuse to do that without raising taxes.

CAVUTO: But you were open to it, right? At least Speaker Boehner -- at least in the early parts of the discussions, the talk was, sir, that $800 billion in revenues were considered.

Then the president, we’re told, wanted to add to that. All bets off, deal done, everyone walks out in a huff.

CANTOR: Well, there was never agreement that we were going to accept on new taxes.

And what...

CAVUTO: So, was this measure just closing loopholes and the like?

CANTOR: Well, I think that what the -- what all of us would say is we need tax reform, we need to close the loopholes, simplify the code, bring down rates for everybody.

The problem is President Obama has consistently said we need to raise taxes. And it’s not just through new growth in this economy. And I can tell you, having sat through almost three months of discussions on these -- on this issue with the administration, it is their position that we need to impose higher taxes on many of the small businesses in this country.

CAVUTO: He doesn’t give up on it. He said it again today. He said it yesterday. He said it when he’s -- right before he signed what you and the Senate came up with. So he’s not giving up that hunt.

CANTOR: Well, you know, and you have to ask, I mean, what is the economic theory that validates a position that says you should impose higher taxes right now, when you have 9.2 percent unemployment – that’s the official rate -- where you have terrible job -- not only job numbers, but manufacturing numbers, you have these new consumer spending numbers that are down?

CAVUTO: Well, no, no doubt, all these are slow.

Would there ever be a position, Congressman, or a situation in which you would envision revenues being on the table, as they inevitably will come up in November, December, when this 12-person committee has to make recommendations?

CANTOR: Well, first of all, revenues should come from growth in the economy. And that’s why we are advocating a growth agenda to make sure people can get back to work; small businesses and entrepreneurs get back in the game.

But, as far as revenues are concerned, the president loves to talk about the shiny balls of millionaires, billionaires and jet owners. I don’t think any of us want to defend that position that we’re not for trying to close some of those loopholes.

But what I’ve always said is, if you’re going to plug those loopholes, let’s make progress towards reform. Let’s give some credit towards corporate rate reduction, so you can actually help the businesses who are going to provide the jobs.

CAVUTO: But you’re not saying go after millionaires and billionaires and jet owners just as a standard...

(CROSSTALK) CANTOR: No, it doesn’t make -- it doesn’t make any economic sense.


CANTOR: And, again, it’s somehow there is some other reason that they continue to promote that. Maybe it makes for good politics.


CANTOR: But what we’re about is trying to say, we’ve got to focus on real problem. And that’s a lack of jobs. And we have got to get this -- we have got to get people back to work.

And, Neil, you look at it. You look at the policies, whether it is the NLRB policies going on, whether it is the SEC, whether it is the EPA under this administration, the president and his team really seems to be in over their head when it comes to trying to arrive at solutions to address the business woes in this country.

CAVUTO: So you’re saying he’s in over his -- you know, it is his birthday tomorrow.

CANTOR: Well, I wish him happy birthday. You know, and, again, I think that, all of us, on a personal level, respect the person.

It’s the policies.

CAVUTO: Do you like him?

CANTOR: Yes, I do. I think he is an historic figure. I mean, he’s a smart guy. And he and I just differ on policy.

CAVUTO: Do you ever want to be president?


CANTOR: I’ll tell you one thing -- no, Neil -- that my wife would hang me off the chandelier if I said anything other than that. So...



Congressman, a real pleasure seeing you.

CANTOR: Thank you.

CAVUTO: Thank you very much.

Crazy time. This gentleman, whether you agree or disagree, he’s not had much sleep. Then again, I haven’t, but I don’t -- I don’t look as good. All right.

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