HH: I begin today’s show with the majority leader in the United States House of Representative, Congressman Eric Cantor from the 7th district of Virginia. Leader Cantor, welcome back, good to have you.
EC: Oh, it’s good to be on.
HH: Tell us what the middle class tax relief and job creators act’s status is right now.
EC: Well, it is currently being debated on the House floor, about to be brought up for a vote. And frankly, this is a bill to make sure that by the end of the year, we stave off a potential tax increase on everybody in America who has a job, and that’s really what it comes to. And that’s why I think that there’ll be a bipartisan vote in support of its passage.
HH: It would also extend unemployment benefits. It would also do the doctors fix, so that the doctors in America don’t get screwed by Medicare. But it would also expedite the Keystone XL pipeline, which I covered with John Hoeven, Senator Hoeven this week. That’s 20,000 jobs overnight, and many times that number over the next couple of years, Leader Cantor. Is that going to pass with this bill tonight?
EC: This will pass with the bill tonight. Of course, it’ll have to go over to the Senate, and we want every one of your listeners and then some to get on the horn and start talking about the job potential that is involved with actually allowing the Keystone pipeline to go forward. The President has always said he’s for the middle class, he’s for providing tax relief for the middle class. And if he’s so much for the middle class, I’m not so sure why he’s against creating jobs for them. And that’s exactly what this bill does with the provision of the Keystone pipeline.
HH: What exactly does it do to expedite the pipeline, Leader Cantor?
EC: Well, what it does to expedite the pipeline is it is to ensure that all the impediments that have been put in the way by this administration are lifted. And as you know, that the President has recently come out and said that he wouldn’t make a decision to allow for the construction of the pipeline until after the election. And I think many people who are looking at the situation think that that is not leadership on the part of the President, and that if any decision should be made, the decision should error on the side of jobs, and jobs for the middle class. And that’s exactly what this bill does, and that’s why I believe that your listeners and others should make it be known that they’re for job creation for the middle class, and they’re for this Keystone pipeline.
HH: The President has threatened to veto the bill if it comes to him with the Keystone pipeline clearance attached to it. If he vetoes 20,000 jobs, Leader Cantor, do you think Democrats in the House will join you in voting to override the veto of 20,000 jobs?
EC: I’m not so sure about that, Hugh, but what I can say is the President will have to pay the price for vetoing a bill that will actually create jobs and provide for more energy security for this country. Too many people are unemployed. We know the job numbers, and we know that not enough jobs are being created by the private sector right now. We need to focus squarely on that, and that’s what this bill does. And so I do think the President will pay for that veto in terms of the public dissatisfaction.
HH: Leader Cantor, and probably more than any other Republican, maybe the Speaker, but you have spent more time as a Republican than anyone else with the President over the last three years. Do you think he knows how to compromise?
EC: (laughing) Well, you know, this town, there’s a lot of differences in this town. And this bill doesn’t represent the perfect proposal for us for sure. But it is a bill that can actually move the ball forward for the country. And that’s why we’re telling the President it’s time for you to compromise as well. Every proposal that the President has put forward has been a proposal to raise taxes on small businesspeople. And right now, what the middle class of the country needs more than anything is small businessmen and women to get back into the game of job creation. That’s what this bill does, and that’s why I’ve said today repeatedly, it’s time, Mr. President, to get in to join us, and to help in creating jobs. The President’s the one who says we can’t wait. Well, we’re not waiting. That’s why we’re putting this bill forward, and hopefully, he can join us in supporting it.
HH: The reporting on these meetings that you’ve been in suggest that the President likes to talk a lot more than he listens. Has he listened to the Keystone arguments? Do you think he actually understands what it does for the country and the number of jobs immediately and long term that it means?
EC: Well, I think it’s pretty well out there about the number of jobs that this Keystone pipeline can create directly, much less the potential for indirect job creation because of its construction. And I think the President understands that, and that’s why it doesn’t make any sense for him to oppose this provision. And I’m hoping that finally, he will compromise and go along with the extension, or the ability for this pipeline to be constructed.
HH: Beyond this particular bill and the spending measures which are pending, Leader Cantor, looking forward to 2012, we’re in an election year. Will anything actually substantively get done in the House in 2012?
EC: Well you know, I think there is a good potential for us to do some things. It will take the President coming off of his insistence of continuing to want to raise taxes on small businesspeople. It will take the President to want to stop the unbridled spending in Washington. Now as you know, our Republican majority was elected in the beginning, or last year, we assumed the majority at the beginning of this year, desiring to do a few things. And one of them was to begin to put in place real change. We know that we can’t sustain trillion dollar plus deficits every year. We know we’ve got to get growth going again, and get business back into the game of creating jobs for everyone in America. And what it doesn’t seem to happen is the President doesn’t seem to buy the notion that you can’t keep raising taxes to chase higher spending, because it’s unsustainable. And so if we can see our way clear that we’re about growing this economy, we’re about making sure that the government lives within its means and stops spending money it doesn’t have, there’s a lot we can do together. And again, the voters are going to have to make their assessment in the election year as to whether the President is someone who is willing to compromise and work with us. And if not, I think he’ll pay the price at the ballot box in November.
HH: Some of the good news is that it looks like the Defense Appropriations bill is going to get done. But looking forward, Buck McKeon, Rob Wittman, Jon Kyl, they’re on a lot, and they’re worried about this sequester, Leader Cantor. Do you think that sequester will be avoided in 2013?
EC: I am really worried about it as well, coming from a state like Virginia, and that is heavily involved in the defense of our nation. I am working together with the individuals that you mentioned, hopefully in a bipartisan effort to replace the Defense cuts with others so we can number one, maintain our fiscal discipline and the commitment to reducing spending, but at the same time make sure that our priority is national security, because without national security, we cannot be focused on the real impact of the lack of jobs. So we’ve got to take care of national security, but we also have to maintain that while we focus on jobs. So it’s a great opportunity for us to come together so that we can make some progress to replace the sequester as it disproportionately impacts Defense with some of the other cuts that have been produced along the way this year, but yet not realized.
HH: All right, a couple of quick political questions. Former Speaker Pelosi, Minority Leader Pelosi, threatened a few days ago to use her files compiled in the Ethics investigations of former Speaker Gingrich against him. What was your reaction to that, Leader Cantor?
EC: Again, I think that the kinds of things that Nancy Pelosi is threatening, the kinds of things she’s threatening to do are the kind of things that turn people off from Washington. They’re not interested in the gotcha games. Right now, problems are real for people out there. And they’re expecting the elected representatives in Washington to actually do the business of the people, not to play vindictive, political games the way that she’s suggesting.
HH: But would there be a sense of the House resolution that that was out of line if she proceeded in that regard?
EC: I’m not so sure what Nancy Pelosi was actually considering doing, but all I can tell you, Hugh, is these kind of political gotcha games are what is making the public tired of Washington’s intransigence and inability to get something done.
HH: And a last question, will you be endorsing in the presidential Republican primary at any point? And if so, when?
EC: Well, I’m going to be for the Republican. I can tell you that. And I think it’s a case in which we’ve got candidates there, all of whom have vastly different views for the future direction of this country than does the President. And this election that we are coming up on is, I think, an epic election, is one in which the country’s going to have to make a choice of whether this country is going to head in the direction of a social welfare state, or whether we’re going to reclaim the free enterprise, success-oriented country of prosperity. And again, I think we need somebody who is an adult, someone who can provide some leadership, somebody who understands how to create jobs.
HH: Majority Leader Eric Cantor, thank you.
End of interview.