Stimulus Smackdown: Rep. Cantor vs. the White House

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This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," February 18, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Republican whip Eric Cantor won't take trash talk from the White House. Yesterday White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs accused Congressman Cantor, the Minority Whip, of being a hypocrite.

Now, what does Congressman Cantor say to that accusation? We spoke to him just a few hours ago.


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

REP. ERIC CANTOR, HOUSE MINORITY WHIP: Greta, good to be with you.

VAN SUSTEREN: Let's start with Press Secretary Gibbs say that you are a hypocrite because you oppose the stimulus bill yet you want high rail train service in Virginia to create jobs in Virginia. Hypocrite?

CANTOR: Absolutely not. Listen to what they are saying here. We now know there was $860 some billion spent in the stimulus bill, and it didn't work. It was a failure. Jobs weren't created. We now know over three million people lost their jobs since the passage of that bill.

The bill has projects in it that many members have worked on over the years. There's an issue of transportation in the state of Virginia. I take it very seriously. Ever since I've been in Congress, we've worked on it.

But it doesn't mean because there may be a page of related to transportation in Virginia that I should then go and support an $860 billion bill. I'm sure that the president is not expecting folks to buy that one.

VAN SUSTEREN: I guess I suppose it is a little bit awkward too for many members of the House and Senate who are opposed to it for fiscal reasons then to deny their state, which is almost what Senator Ben Nelson was attempting to say with his $300 million.

CANTOR: That is a different issue there. You know, seniors ought to be treated differently in Nebraska than anywhere else -- that's not right. The public is rightfully turned off by that.

But what you've got in the stimulus bill is hundreds of billions of dollars of pork, and intentions and promises to stave off unemployment and to grow jobs, and it just hasn't materialized.

We've got a lot of work to do. It probably would behoove us all to not sit around pointing fingers and attacking folks, and instead we ought to get together to resolve some of the issues facing families in this country.

VAN SUSTEREN: You wrote a letter and you outlined a number of ways the stimulus bill is being spent, and the one that caught my attention is my home state of Wisconsin in which someone who works in a casino was sent to a two day seminar at a local technical college so the casino staff could handle confrontations with customers.

That doesn't create jobs, so what's the rationalization for that? Should we sort of realize there are a few that are not particularly useful.

CANTOR: Unfortunately, this is emblematic of the type of spending in the bill. That's what Republicans said in the very beginning. We need to focus the spending, focus our attention on job growth, sustainable job growth.

The way you do it is you focus on small businesses and you give them incentive, you give them an opportunity to keep the lights on and grow payroll. That's what we should have done.

And we find ourselves now a year later with this kind of money having been spent, the vice president announcing yesterday, the second half is yet to come. It's -- we are going to get better.

Listen, if this is the kind of thing we are in store for what we ought to be doing is going ahead right now and rescinding the kind of appropriations that are in this bill and putting those monies back towards retiring the debt.

VAN SUSTEREN: In looking at the philosophy of the Democratic Party in supporting and pushing this bill to be passed, it seems the expenses to make payroll to keep people on the job, the so-called saved jobs, that was in the expectation that they would go out and buy food and clothes and sort of get the economy rolling that way.

Do you have any objections to that, just keeping the status quo so people can buy and create jobs?

CANTOR: It is like the make work pay tax credit in the bill. And it's nice to give everybody $400. But once the money is gone it's spent and that was it.

What we need to be about is sustainable environment for job growth. We are seeing at the state level now budgets having huge holes in it. My state of Virginia they are dealing with almost a $4 billion shortfall.

Last year there wasn't a shortfall because the stimulus money arrived. Those same jobs technically that may have been saved by the stimulus bill are now going to be cut. What do we have to show for it? We have $800 billion and some of debt that we've not put on the backs of our kids and theirs.

VAN SUSTEREN: CPAC big meeting here in Washington of the conservative members of the Republican Party. You are going to participate tomorrow?


VAN SUSTEREN: What are you going to do?

CANTOR: We are going to meet with some young people there who are looking to sort of the hope that America has offered to the world. And I believe the gathering reflects people's concerns about where we're headed in this country.

We have some serious decisions to make. We are at a pivotal point in our country's history. Are we going to be the country that we know or one that frankly goes more towards the style of European socialism? We don't want that in this country. We are a country of opportunity, one without limits.

And so I believe we are going to have a lively discussion there. There's a lot of energy I think across the country for a shift in the debate back from what I believe is the extreme left towards a center, because this is a center-right nation.

We are one that believes in limited government. We are a very special people that believes in individual responsibility, and that's the path to opportunity.

VAN SUSTEREN: February 25th is the health care summit that the president has called. I realize the Democrats are the party are in power and it is the president's invitation. What are you doing to plan for it? Are you preparing anything? Is there anything you are doing behind the scenes?

CANTOR: The health care summit has been built up now as a critical moment and the president is going to succeed in imposing his will on the Congress and so that perhaps Nancy Pelosi can jam through the Senate bill in the House.

I believe that my mission in going to that meeting will be, number one, to ask the president why it is that he supports this bill, because it's not a bill that will lower costs for Americans. It's a bill that will cost $1 trillion dollars and frankly put us on a path to a government replacing of our health care system.

VAN SUSTEREN: He's looking for ideas. He's not going to want to hear that from you.

CANTOR: Sure. And as you know, Greta, we in the Republicans in the House, we have a plan. We put the plan out there. We had a vote on it in our house. And we are going to talk about why our plan has been judged by the Congressional Budget Office as lowering insurance costs.

We do some things that promote competition that begin the process of reform, what the American people are looking for, not the expansion of $1 trillion dollar expenditure that we can't afford and ending up with a system that will collapse.

VAN SUSTEREN: What's the procedure? It makes a big difference whether you are sitting around a table talking or whether someone is up at the podium, you get five minutes, 10 minutes. Do you have any idea what the procedure is going to be on 2/25?

CANTOR: I don't, Greta. And what I know is we are going to be at the Blair House. And the White House will be in charge of organizing the event.

I'm just hopeful that the public will be able to see and listen to the negotiations, the discussions there. And frankly, the takeaway for me is going to be if the president finally owns up to the fact that he cannot accept just as the American people cannot accept the Democrats' bill.

And I for the life of me don't understand how the president can just ignore public opinion. So I'm going to go in and listen and see why that is, because we have much better ideas. Those are ideas shared with the bulk and majority of this country.


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