The Corner

Catching Up with Eric Cantor

Washington – Rep. Eric Cantor (R., Va.), the House GOP whip, sat down with National Review Online on Tuesday for a wide-ranging interview in his Capitol office. Cantor touched on numerous topics, from the Democrats’ summer stimulus and the lame-duck session to the Ground Zero mosque and the GOP’s fall agenda.

He criticized House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) for calling the House back into session today to pass a $26 billion spending package for teachers and other public employees. “You’ve got to ask the question, ‘Why are we are here, in this alleged emergency session?’ Are we here to make sure that taxes don’t go up? No. Are we here to make sure that we are doing something to curtail the unabated federal spending habit? No . . . we are here, essentially, to extend the stimulus program.” States, Cantor laments, have become “addicted” to federal dollars.

Cantor adds that he remains “very worried” about what the Democrats may try to pass during the lame-duck session following the November elections. “They have been unable to execute on their extreme, left-wing agenda,” he says, and could use a lame-duck session to push through a national energy tax and card check for the labor unions.

On the hot-button issue of the planned mosque near Ground Zero in lower Manhattan, Cantor says it would be the “ultimate insensitivity” and an example of “unreasonableness.”

As he looks ahead, Cantor says he is confident in his party’s ability to bring fresh ideas to the table. “It is about focusing on where people want Washington to focus and that is on the economy,” he says. “We have got to go about trying to make sure that the environment is such that people — entrepreneurs, innovators, small businesses — feel that there is an environment setting in again that allows them to take risk to create jobs.”

“When the Republicans were elected in 1994, they cut the budgets in Congress,” Cantor says. “We ought to put the White House budget on the chopping block as well.”

Cantor, who has pushed for budget cuts via his “YouCut” program, says the GOP must work to trim the federal budget generally. Will he sign on to Rep. Paul Ryan’s fiscal ‘roadmap,’ which goes after long-term entitlements?

“Paul Ryan’s plan is a 75-year plan,” Cantor says, calling it a “very credible” proposal that “should be one of many on the table.” Still, the Virginian has some reservations about jumping behind it immediately, though he says that he appreciates how it has contributed to an “adult discussion” about entitlement spending.

“[Americans] don’t trust Congress to be tinkering in their retirement benefits,” Cantor says. “We have got to regain the trust of the people. The way we do that, in order to get to this discussion about entitlement reform, we’ve got to demonstrate that we will take the action to cut waste, fraud, and the rest. That’s where YouCut comes in. It is something that we can do right away to demonstrate that we get it, that we put these cuts onto the table.”

Robert Costa — Robert Costa is National Review's Washington editor and a CNBC political analyst. He manages NR's Capitol Hill bureau and covers the White House, Congress, and national campaigns. ...

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