House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.) told reporters at his weekly briefing this afternoon that he does not support federal bailouts for bankrupt states. “There will not be a federal bailout of the states,” Cantor said. “I do not think that is necessary because state governments have at their disposal the requisite tools to address their fiscal ills.”
Cantor also had tough words for President Obama, who will travel to Capitol Hill tomorrow to deliver his State of the Union address. “The question is: Is he going to decouple himself from what we have seen over the last two years?” Cantor asked. “Will there be a new direction? I think that the success of this Congress will rest on that question, as will, frankly, the outcome of the election in November 2012.”
Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.), the House Budget Committee chairman, is slated to give the GOP’s response to Obama on Tuesday. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R., Minn.), the founder of the Tea Party Caucus, will also be issuing her own video rebuttal. Asked whether Bachmann will “muddy” the Republican line on the speech, Cantor did not criticize Bachmann, but emphasized Ryan’s role.
“Paul Ryan is giving the official Republican response,” Cantor said. “Michele Bachmann just as the other 534 members of the House and Senate are going to have opinions as to the State of the Union. Again, this is a process that happens every year and I look forward to all comments, but it is Paul Ryan that is giving the official comment.”
The reporter followed up, pointing out that Bachmann’s remarks will receive network television coverage. “All right,” Cantor said. “Maybe I should ask: Why is that the case?” The room of scribes chuckled.
On spending, Cantor reiterated his message from Meet the Press on Sunday. “Transportation, education, defense — everything is on the table,” he said. “We can’t start the Congress assuming that we’re going to have to make sure that some things are too sacred and can’t be analyzed and looked at in order to try and yield a better return for the taxpayers.”
On entitlements, Cantor predicted that House Republicans will “engage in a discussion” about long-term liabilities in coming months. “It’s not just Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid — it is this new entitlement that we are now facing in the health-care arena,” he noted.
Turning to the stop-gap legislation to fund the government, which will expire in early March, Cantor said he will ensure that the related debate follows an “open process,” so that everyone from the “[Republican Study Committee] to progressives can participate and offer their ideas on how we can cut spending.”
Last week, led by Rep. Jim Jordan (R., Ohio), the RSC proposed its own budget-cuts package that would bring non-defense discretionary spending back to 2006 levels. Cantor seemed open to the idea, but did not make any promises about the level of support in the conference for the RSC plan.
“We committed, prior to the election, that we would reduce discretionary spending to 2008 levels,” Cantor said. “If the will of the House is such, if there are 218 votes to deliver on 2006 levels, so be it. We intend for there to be an open process and the body will work its will.”