Rep. Cantor: Lois Lerner owes Americans an 'explanation'

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," May 23, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: And here's when you know this IRS thing is heating up. A former speaker throws her successor, well, into the frying plan; says that if the president is accountable for everything going on under his watch, that John Boehner is accountable for everything going on, well, in his neighborhood.

Now, she dismissed the comparison to make the point. But then again, she used the comparison to make that point, didn't she?

To House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who says Nancy Pelosi is missing the point.

Sir, very good to have you. What did you make of that comment?

REP. ERIC CANTOR, R-VA., HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: Neil, I don't quite follow what Nancy Pelosi was trying to say in that little piece you just aired.

But what I can say is, it's President Obama's IRS. And we're continuing to try and get to the bottom of the situation here. And I know that Ms. Lerner, when she came up to Capitol Hill and she pled the Fifth, I strongly believe, if she works for the American people, she owes the American people an explanation. And if she can't give that explanation, she shouldn't be working for the American people.

CAVUTO: Do you think that if she comes back to, I would imagine, try to plead the Fifth again -- I don't know if you can even legally do that -- that her opening statement, many are arguing, worked against her and nullified her pleading the Fifth?

CANTOR: Well, again, I think the -- if in a court of law a judge came to that finding, a judge could put her in jail if she refused to come forward with testimony.

Here in Congress, we are going to continue to try and address this situation in search for answers and in trying to compel testimony here because, again, she is a servant of the taxpayers. She works for the American people. And the American people deserve an answer right now.

I think if you look to the totality of the situation here, Neil, that most Americans understand elections are about electing presidents and political parties which will promote their policies while in government.

However, when it comes to the point where parties and individuals are using neutral instruments, such as the tax enforcement authority, or the IRS, to go and discriminate against political opponents, that is totally unacceptable, and it's an egregious abuse of power.

CAVUTO: Are there, I'm not saying deals behind the scene, Congressman, but are there those along the IRS food chain who want to talk, who want to be given protections, assurances that they won't be penalized for I guess ratting out higher-ups? Is that kind of stuff going on?

CANTOR: Well, listen, there's whistle-blower statutes that provide protection to federal employees to come forward, really because, again, they're all servants of the taxpayer.

CAVUTO: Oh, I understand that, but is that happening now? Are there whistle-blowers out there that do want to come forward that have talked to you, your offices or other offices?

CANTOR: Well, I can't comment on what kind of conversations are going on within the committee. But I can tell you there are plenty of federal employees that I have come into contact with who are very upset with what we see going on inside this administration.

I mean, if there is a pattern of abuse that begins to develop, I think the president will have to come forward. We're asking the president to come forward to explain what he knew, when he knew it, and the problem is, Neil, you have the president saying, he was not engaged, nor did he know anything that was going on, he wasn't focused with the IRS, he wasn't focused on Benghazi, he's not focused on DOJ.

And now I know that there's a recent report that demonstrates the EPA, and a study shows that the EPA has been granting waivers to FOIA fees to groups that are from the left, but instead imposing those kind of fees from others.

Again, if this is true, and the president continues to maintain that he is just not engaged, he's not focused, how can we do our job? We need to be focused on regaining the trust in government while we keep rebuilding the faith in our economy.

And I think that it's really time for the president to step up and lead on all of this.

CAVUTO: Congressman, the president, we're told, is focused on eventually making a decision, maybe sooner than we think, on Keystone, and that part of it might involve allowing it to continue and open, but there that might be a flip where he would scale back traditional fossil fuel production and that sort of thing as a quid pro quo.

All of this is just conjecture. Leave it at that. But what do you make of that? Where do you stand on this whole Keystone thing and how soon you want to get an answer?

CANTOR: Well, we want an answer now. We want the Keystone pipeline built.

As you know, in the House yesterday, we passed in bipartisan fashion a bill which says let's talk. Let's stop the block on the Keystone pipeline. This is about growing our economy. Again, America has the most sophisticated technology in terms of extraction of our fossil fuels than anywhere else in the world.

We can be more environmentally sensitive. We have a built-in competitive advantage with our at-home resources. We ought to be maximizing that production.


CAVUTO: If he were to talk about, sir, a quid pro quo deal on Keystone, I approve it, but, but I might close off additional federal lands to drilling or something like that, your response would be?

CANTOR: Why in the world would he even be for something like that? We can do it more environmentally sensitively than anywhere else in the world.

We have the technology. We ought to be maximizing production. It lowers costs for families. It lowers costs for businesses. It can grow our economy and create jobs, which should be our focus.

CAVUTO: All right, Congressman, thank you very much, Eric Cantor in Washington. Good seeing you again.

CANTOR: Thank you, Neil.

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