When: Today, Wednesday, February 6, 2012
Where: CNBC's "The Kudlow Report"
Following is the unofficial transcript of a CNBC interview with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) tonight on CNBC's "The Kudlow Report" at 7PM ET. All references must be sourced to CNBC.
LARRY KUDLOW: As always, we're honored to welcome back to The Kudlow Report, the House Majority Leader, Mr. Eric Cantor, Republican from Virginia. Leader Cantor, thank you for doin' this.
REP. ERIC CANTOR: Larry, good to be with you.
LARRY KUDLOW: All right, before we get to your speech at the American Enterprise Institute, I just wanna ask you-- fiscal update. I-- I know you hear what President Obama said yesterday, no sequester, little, tiny spending cuts, and another big tax hike. What was your reaction to that?
REP. ERIC CANTOR: It's, "Here we go again," Larry. All they wanna do is number one, take more people's money from 'em so that it can be spent here in Washington. And two is kick the can. And that's exactly what this country does not need. The working people of America wanna see us come to some resolution and get the fiscal situation under control so we can start growing the economy again.
LARRY KUDLOW: Would you say that the House Republican Conference is behind the across-the-board spending cut sequester? It's about $85 billion in 2013. Are-- is-- is your conference behind it?
REP. ERIC CANTOR: I think what you could probably accurately say about our conference, we have tried two times, and passed a bill in the House, to replace the sequestered cuts with cuts that actually go to the main drivers of the deficit, which are the entitlement programs. You and I have both spoken before, this is the exponential growth in the spending.
And how we get it under control is we deal with the entitlements. But the president has missed every opportunity to join us in solving this problem. And so now the-- we are-- facing this sequester and-- again, I think the-- House Republicans are determined to try and get our spending under control so we can start sending this signal that we're gonna grow--
LARRY KUDLOW: So--
REP. ERIC CANTOR: --the economy again, not the government.
LARRY KUDLOW: Right. And it-- cutting spending can be pro-growth. So are you saying that you-- we will s-- have the sequester? Is that your basic forecast? We will get the spending sequester?
REP. ERIC CANTOR: We-- well-- what-- what I'm saying is we're gonna get-- at least this, if not more, I'm hoping we can get the entitlement situation addressed. That's the point. You'll see us later this year-- come forward with a budget that is gonna project to be balanced in ten years. Again, all because we wanna grow this economy, not grow government.
LARRY KUDLOW: All right. One last one just on the fiscal update. The debt ceiling-- was extended, the borrowing limit was extended in a compromised move. I believe it expires sometime around the middle of April, so that's the next due date. Will you go for another compromise again? You know, world financial markets watch this stuff very careful and they churn about it. Do we expect to see-- a strategy on the debt ceiling?
REP. ERIC CANTOR: Well, I think it's a little later than the middle of April will be the-- date at which-- we'll see another need for a debt ceiling incredible. And Larry, even if-- we're passing a budget that balances in ten years, there's gonna need to be-- an increase in the borrowing capability of the federal government.
But what we're interested in is seeing some real progress towards trying to manage the debt and deficit down long term, and it'll be up to the president and the Senate to come forward and join us. We've certainly demonstrated a willingness in the House-- to go ahead and make the tough choices and actually put solutions on the table that do exactly that. That manage down the debt and deficit so we can see a growing economy in the private sector.
LARRY KUDLOW: All right. Now in your speech to-- A.E.I.-- yesterday, it was really, seemed to me, a speech, a little different than your normal speech. It was kinda aimed at, I think, middle-class families, heavy emphasis on education, heavy emphasis on healthcare, and a surprising emphasis on immigration reform. We'll get to that later. Is this a kinder and gentler Eric Cantor? Is this a kinder and gentler Republican party
REP. ERIC CANTOR: You know, the-- this is-- I think a demonstration-- of our conservative principles, you know, steeped in self-reliance, in faith in the individual and families, and insistence on accountability in government. It's putting these principles to work to-- to demonstrate that you know what, conservatives principles and policies actually benefit people and can help make life work again.
LARRY KUDLOW: Is it fair to-- is it fair to say, in all seriousness, is it fair to say that in the last election and who knows when, the G.O.P. really wasn't directing its policies at the middle class? And now you're trying to correct that? Is that one of your main themes, main ideas?
REP. ERIC CANTOR: No, I-- no, Larry. I think the lesson learned from the last election is-- we stood strong on the-- on the policies trying to right size the government, to manage down the debt and deficit. And for some-- reason, we were unable to demonstrate, or we didn't complete the sentence, if you will, to say, "Managing down the debt and deficit, balancing the budget actually will benefit working people in this country."
Because we don't wanna see-- a debt crisis-- imposed where interest rates skyrocket, the need for higher taxes affects working people, and their lives becoming a lot more difficult. We don't want that. What we wanna do is to help people. We wanna help make their life work again. We wanna empower them, as you say, in the talk I gave yesterday, by allowing for some s-- for school choice.
You know, I went to a school here in the District of Columbia-- with a family that had four kids. They were-- were literally saved by the D.C.'s c-- Opportunity Scholarship Program that enabled a parent to save their kids from having to go to a school where there were eight D.C. police officers every single day on site.
They took 'em out of that school-- and went to this private school, funded through the scholarship program, and these kids, one of them is actually in college now, and the others are well on their way. That's the kind of empowering policies that we have--
LARRY KUDLOW: Can you--
REP. ERIC CANTOR: --and we want everyone to have that opportunity.
LARRY KUDLOW: Can you actually-- legislate school choice? 'Cause you actually have a pretty interesting section there about college choices also. But in terms of high school, elementary school, can you actually legislate from the Congress school choice?
REP. ERIC CANTOR: Well, about-- about 7% of the-- education dollars in this country flow from Washington. It is-- monies that are allocated through the budget. And what we wanna do is hopefully track through directly with the students. Let the dollars follow the students.
So that means that schools will have to compete for the students, parents, especially those in low-income areas and those with special-need children, they can access much better schools and enable their kids to have a brighter future and a chance to succeed.
LARRY KUDLOW: All right. Sort of switching gears a little bit-- you came out in favor of the-- the kids of illegal immigrants, the kids of illimmigram-- illegal immigrants becoming citizens, getting citizenship. I've never heard you say that before. Why is that your new position?
REP. ERIC CANTOR: Well, I mean, I think, Larry, you can see the tradition of our country. And one of the basic tenets is, we're not gonna hold kids-- responsible for the actions of their parents. I mean, we know in the days of old and-- and some of the European countries, it used to be that children were held responsible for the debts of their parents.
We don't believe in that. And when you have kids that were brought here due to no faults of their own-- and known no other place than America as home, I think that we oughta be allowing those kids the opportunity of permanent, legal residence and citizenship.
LARRY KUDLOW: Ch-- you won't go as far as Senator Rubio who is willing to give them worker's permits, as you are, but actually put them in a ten or 15-year path to citizenship, the illegal parents. You're not gonna go as far as Rubio?
REP. ERIC CANTOR: Well, you know, there are a lot of issues that need to be resolved. I think first and foremost, we've gotta put border security first. You know, we are a country of laws. That's part of the reason why so many people wanna come here. Our laws have enabled us to build an innovation culture that provides more opportunity than anywhere else in the world, or in the history of the world.
So we need to uphold our system of laws. We have to be sensitive to the families that are here, many of whom-- are part of the fabric of our country for sure. But also are, you know, here while there are millions-- I don't know the-- the exact number, but a lotta people, millions of people who are in line legally…waiting for entry.
So you gotta do some balance for entry. So you gotta do some balance there. But I do think that from the kids' perspective, it was due to no fault of their own, they've become a part of our country, we oughta afford them the opportunity to become Americans.
LARRY KUDLOW: All right, put 'em on a path to citizenship. I just wanna ask though before we wrap up, I've known you many years and I just wanna be sure this kinder, gentler Eric Cantor, which is very interesting, it's okay, you're not losin' your zeal for flat tax reform, ha-- lower tax rates, get rid of the deductions, grow the economy at 4% to 5%, growth is the solution. You're not t-- you're not jumpin' off that ship, are you? You're not--
REP. ERIC CANTOR: No.
LARRY KUDLOW:--gonna be too kinder and gentler? After all, growth--
REP. ERIC CANTOR: Lo--
LARRY KUDLOW: Growth solves a lotta problems, and growth can be kindler and gentler.
REP. ERIC CANTOR: Gr-- I was gonna say, growth is kinder and gentler. I am all for growth. And, you know, we've got a problem in this town because Republicans are in charge of the House, if we want tax reform, that's the kinda tax reform we want. Unfortunately, the President's version of tax reform is raising taxes and raising tax rates.
We saw that in the beginning of the year, and the Senate followed suit. You know, and we're gonna fight-- have to fight hard and-- convince the American people that it's our kinda tax reform that is gonna produce a growing economy and-- and will yield more opportunity for more working families so their life can work again.
LARRY KUDLOW: All right, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Republican from Virginia, as always sir, we appreciate you.
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