Majority Leader Eric Cantor talks to Right Turn
I spoke with Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) this afternoon. The topic was the continuing resolution (CR). Cantor explained that House Republicans have put online a proposal for a two-week, short-term extension. The amount to be cut is a pro-rated portion of the $61 billion in cuts that House Republicans have proposed for the balance of fiscal 2011. Cantor said that the cuts selected were "some that the president proposed and zeroing out some accounts." He said -- more than once -- "It is certainly not our intention to shut down the government." He's not spoken to Sens. Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer, but the aim of the two-week extension is to allow time to forge a deal on the remainder of the 2011 budget. Cantor explained that the House will abide by its own rule to allow bills to be posted for three days and then move to a vote on Tuesday.
Schumer and Reid have changed their tune and now seem to be talking about cuts of $30 billion in the 2011 budget. I asked if Cantor was optimistic about reaching a deal. He said he certainly hoped that Democrats were coming around to the understanding that the voters elected House and Senate members to "change the status quo." He argues that "Americans have been tightening their belts," so Congress should too.
I also asked him about Wisconsin. He said he had spoken to Gov. Scott Walker (R). Cantor says, "He's doing the right thing." Cantor contends that voters are waking up to the realization that public employee pensions "have gotten out of hand." Moreover, Cantor noted that Walker's experience in local government has convinced him that changes need to be made in collective bargaining rights of public employees. Cantor said, "My hunch is that he prevails."
Does he think the circus-like atmosphere and the walkout by Wisconsin Democrats have had an impact on their Democratic colleagues in Washington? Cantor said he is "hopeful" that they have extracted a lesson. He says simply, "Running away from your job is unacceptable." Of the Wisconsin Democratic senators, Cantor said he doesn't think their "prank enures to their benefit."
Cantor's message is clear: Republicans want to cut spending but are not threatening a shutdown. He's put the ball in the court of Senate Democrats, who are nervous about 2012 elections and voters' insistence on government frugality. Now we all wait to see what Reid and his caucus will do.
| February 25, 2011; 5:44 PM ET
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