New House Majority Leader Cantor Pledges 'Cut and Grow Congress'

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," January 5, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: And it is a new day in our nation's capital. Republicans took control of the House of Representatives earlier today as the 112th Congress was officially sworn in. Now, for the American people that means a return to two-party government. And as the anointed one might say, that is change we can believe in.

Now, the highlight of today's event came as the San Francisco speaker relinquished her power to the new Speaker of the House, Ohio Congressman John Boehner. As he accepted the gavel, he described the principles that will animate his leadership.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER, R-OHIO, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Hard work and tough decisions will be required of the 112th Congress. No longer can we fall short, no longer can we kick the can down the road. The people voted to end business as usual. And today we begin to carry out their instructions.

What they want is a government that is honest, accountable and responsive to their needs. A government that respects individual liberty, honors our heritage and bows before the public that it serves.

Welcome to the people's House. Welcome to the 112th Congress.



HANNITY: Now, that is certainly a breath of fresh air after two years of Democratic power grabs. And in a nod to the tradition of individual liberty that Speaker Boehner mentioned the 112th Congress will read the constitution allowed on the House floor tomorrow. Now, the contents of that document may come as quite a surprise to some of the Democrats, president in the House chamber.

And joining me now with reaction to today's momentous events is somebody who played a major role in them in that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. I'm sure you like the new title, sir?

REP. ERIC CANTOR, R-VA., HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: Sean, it is a great day and it is great to be with you.

HANNITY: All right. One thing, before we get started here. Democrats seem to be getting all bent out of shape over the idea of reading the constitution on the House floor. Let me give you an example, Jerrold Nadler of New York said they are reading it like it is a sacred text. He called it a ritualistic reading. He said, it is total nonsense and propaganda. A constitution?

CANTOR: I mean, can you even imagine, Sean. But, you know, we are going to start tomorrow. And we are going to read the constitution on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. In our pledge to America, we committed that this going to be a constitutional U.S. House and that's what we intend to do. And in fact, one of the rules that we are going to abide by is that upon submitting any bill to be considered in the House, any member must put in writing, his or her basis in the Constitution for that bill. And from where in the constitution should and does Congress derive its power.

HANNITY: I think it's a refreshing change. Let me ask you this, apparently, I saw at least your side of the conversation. You had a conversation with President Obama today. You obviously were very cordial. We didn't get the text of what he said back to you.

CANTOR: Well Sean, what he said back was, you know, we're going to have some differences. And Sean, you and I know what those differences are. We have a very conflicting view of what this country is about. And the principles upon which we need to govern. We believe in free enterprise and limiting government and cutting spending. And, as you know, I told the president that we are anticipating his State of the Union address in several weeks. And what I hope to hear is, the president's re-evaluating his position. And perhaps, he will put some meaning behind his words that we can work together. We want to work together to cut spending. We want to work together to end the practice of earmarking in Washington, which the president said he's committed to.

I suggested to the president that he ought to talk to Harry Reid and get the Senate to join the House in making sure that practice does not ensue as business as usual has done for so long here. I also told the president that I want to -- and I'm hopeful, I want to see him put forward some ideas on tax reform. You know, I will say, Sean, the president acknowledged that we've got to do something about this economy. And that there is real global competition for America right now and people are watching us. I'm hopeful that he is good to those words and that we can see a way to work together in these common sense conservative goals that we've set.

HANNITY: You know, before I get to the specifics on what your plans are. We all watched Speaker Boehner, we saw him on "60 Minutes," we saw him the night he became speaker, we saw him today. You work as closely with him as anybody in Congress. He's an emotional guy, some people make fun, some people are critical. What can you tell us about it?

CANTOR: John Boehner is somebody who understands the American dream, he has lived it. He's been a part of a very large family. And has seen success that he's made on his own. He's been a small business-person that understands the challenges that our small businesses face today. And is committed to the principles that you and I Sean are committed to of limited government, of more opportunity of people taking responsibility for their future. And those are the principles that he laid out today and his inaugural address or swearing in address as speaker, and the principles by which we will live and conduct ourselves here in Washington.

HANNITY: Let's talk specifically about the agenda. A lot of people, I'm interested -- first of all, I think there's been symbolic changes. The pledge for example to eliminate earmarks. Speaker Boehner has never taken an earmark. He just gave back Nancy Pelosi's plane, I'm sure she is upset. A cut of what, five percent of the budget of members of Congress. You're going to go back to 2008 spending levels. What will that do to the $14 trillion that we have in debt?

CANTOR: Well, we are going to be very focused, Sean in cutting spending. And we have committed to bringing to the floor each and every week a bill to cut spending. We've also put in place new rules that say, we're not going to just pay as you go. We're going to cut as you go. Which means, if there is any new proposal for spending, we are going to make sure there's cuts in the budget elsewhere. We've got a long way to go and try and put this country back on a sustainable footing economically. And we are committed to making sure that we bring down the levels of funding and spending in this government.

HANNITY: Well, let me ask you this.


CANTOR: I think Sean -- what you can say -- we are going to be a cut and grow Congress. It's cutting spending, cutting the job-killing regulations and growing this economy by providing for private sector job growth.

HANNITY: Well, one of the biggest debates that I saw on the horizon then. We've got again, a debt ceiling, $14 trillion. For the federal government to keep going, they're going to need to raise that debt ceiling.

Now, what is the plan of Republicans? You know, for example, Bob McDonnell, new governor of Virginia, he went back to 2006 spending levels, if you cut spending, because Democrats are saying, well, the full faith in government of the United States is at risk here and in jeopardy. Do you think you can have enough cuts that you don't need to raise the debt ceiling?

CANTOR: Sean, I think what the American people are looking for is the same thing the people in my state of Virginia were looking for Bob McDonnell to do. And that was, to make sure the government lives within its means. We are committed to making sure that we bring spending levels down on the discretionary side to '08 levels, but we've got to do a lot more than that. We're e going to be about cutting spending each and every week. And when we get to the vote on the debt limit, we are going to demonstrate that we are committed to long-term change in the way this government operates. And we are going to be looking at the legislative alternatives that we have available to us, in order to approach that issue of the debt limit.

HANNITY: All right. The other big issue in the promise and Speaker Boehner mentioned this today is on the issue of health care. I would assume congressman that in the House you are going to repeal health care. I would assume that you are going to have a tougher time having that happen in the Senate. If it were to happen, I believe Barack Obama would veto it and I don't think the votes would be to override it. What are the next steps if that scenario unfolds in terms of your being able to chip away at the health care bill?

CANTOR: Well, it's an important vote, Sean, and next Wednesday, we're going to have the vote in the House on that repeal bill. To send the signal that we are dead serious about making sure we stop spending money we don't have and that we work hard to try and stop regulations that are job- killing. And the Obamacare bill fills both of those roles. If the Senate is unwilling to take it up, if they prove to be that Cul-de-sac that they have been for so long, we are going to go about making sure we do everything in our power to stop the regulations that have followed along this passage of this bill that have been so daunting to small businesses. Because, right now we've got added costs that people can't add jobs to their businesses.

HANNITY: All right. Congressman Cantor, congratulations on a historic day. We appreciate you being with us.

CANTOR: Sean, thank you.

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