NBC's David Gregory challenged House Majority Leader Eric Cantor on Thursday's Today show, insinuating that Republican efforts to include tax cuts along with closing tax loopholes is not an effective compromise if Democrats are willing to cut entitlement spending.
Gregory seemed to frame the debate around whether Republicans would make the "tough" choice of not cutting taxes, since Democrats were reaching across the aisle with their "tough" choice of cutting entitlement spending. The Today show co-host pressed Cantor, "if Democrats are willing to cut trillions of dollars, which is certainly what you wanted in spending cuts, what is the Republican Party prepared to do in this negotiation that is hard?"
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Cantor argued that it is "counter-intuitive in a sputtering economy" to raise tax rates. Gregory believed that cutting taxes would nullify any debt reductions made by closing tax loopholes.
"Leader, you say you want offsetting tax cuts," Gregory challenged Cantor. "That doesn't get you anywhere. You're saying that Democrats have to cut spending – that's an actual cut. You're saying you'll do some kind of revenue increase as long as it's cut somewhere else. That doesn't get you anywhere, does it?"
Cantor retorted that it is indeed hard for Republicans to raise the debt ceiling with such a large amount of debt already. A June 9 Washington Post-ABC News poll showed only 51 percent of Americans supporting a debt ceiling increase with large spending cuts, and only a minority of those opposed voted that way because they didn't like the cuts to spending.
"Well it is very hard, I think, to first of all sit here and say yes, we're going to increase the credit limit of the country when we've got over $14 trillion in debt right now," Cantor told Gregory. "This is not easy for anyone to do, David."
A transcript of the segment, which aired on July 7 at 7:09 a.m. EDT, is as follows:
DAVID GREGORY: Now to Washington, and the debate over raising the federal debt ceiling to keep the United States from defaulting on its loans for the first time ever. President Obama has summoned Congressional leaders to the White House today for a negotiating session. House Majority Leader Republican Eric Cantor of Virginia says he will be there. Leader, good morning.
Rep. ERIC CANTOR (R-Va.), House Majority Leader: Good morning, David.
GREGORY: So as you go into negotiations today, there's new signs of openness. The president is reportedly talking about a larger package of spending cuts that would include Medicare spending – be tough for Democrats to do. And you signaled yesterday some openness to raising revenues. Do you think there's room for a deal here?
CANTOR: Well first of all David, yesterday what I said, it was in response to the president's demands that we not hold up a deal based on any objections to plugging corporate loopholes, and he specifically talked about corporate jet owners. My response to him was that's not why talks have stalled here in this town. Why talks have stalled – why I left the so-called Biden talks, had to do with the fact that there was a fundamental disagreement over whether we should raise taxes right now.
CANTOR: David you know I believe it's counter-intuitive in a sputtering economy for us to raise taxes when we need to get people back to work.
GREGORY: Alright, but let's talk about exactly what you meant, then. Because raising tax rates is one thing, I know you're opposed to that. Are you willing to consider raising revenues through closing loopholes and other deductions that would actually bring money into the federal treasury?
CANTOR: Well what I said is, first of all, preferences, special loopholes in the code are never good for overall economic growth. And so we do need to simplify the code, and yes, I would like to see rates brought down. But in response and to the isolated question of whether we are holding up something about corporate jet owners is not true. Because if that's such a priority for the president, what we would like to see is offsetting tax cuts somewhere else. But at the end of the day, Republicans are not going to support –
GREGORY: But Leader, what does that do to help pay down the debt? Leader, you say you want offsetting tax cuts. That doesn't get you anywhere. You're saying that Democrats have to cut spending – that's an actual cut. You're saying you'll do some kind of revenue increase as long as it's cut somewhere else. That doesn't get you anywhere, does it?
CANTOR: David, what this is about is trying to demonstrate to the public that we're going to stop spending we don't have. Right now, we're borrowing over 40 cents of every dollar we spend. No family, no business can get away with doing that. And we're trying to say look, significant spending cuts in terms of trillions of dollars, to programs that frankly, affect real people. These are not easy cuts for anyone. But the duty for all of us is, to be able to go back to the people that put us here to say, you know what, we're going to change this system. We're going to demonstrate – we're going to get the fiscal house in order so people at home can get back to work.
GREGORY: Here's the issue though, Leader. If the White House, if Democrats are willing to cut trillions of dollars, which is certainly what you wanted in spending cuts, what is the Republican Party prepared to do in this negotiation that is hard?
CANTOR: Well it is very hard, I think, to first of all sit here and say yes, we're going to increase the credit limit of the country when we've got over $14 trillion in debt right now. But I think all of us believe that America's [sic] pays its bills just like every family business is expected to. So what we look at this is a situation where if we can come together and – rally around trillions of dollars in spending cuts, as well as reforms to the system, then we can go forward and begin to get the fiscal house in order. This is not easy for anyone to do, David. And I'm hopeful that we can get this done so we can begin to grow the economy again.
GREGORY: Alright, talks at the White House today. We'll be watching. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, thank you very much.