House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, who is expected to rise to Majority Leader in the 112th Congress, said Sunday that the president bears an equal responsibility for avoiding a government shutdown as the parties grapple with federal spending.
When asked on "Fox News Sunday" whether it is President Barack Obama’s responsibility or Congress’ to avoid a default on the national debt or a shutdown, the Virginia Republican responded: “It’s as much as his responsibility. In fact, he is the one who sets the agenda as the chief executive and as the president of this country.
“Congressional role is to look to and account for the expenditures that have been made, to make sure that his administration is following through on the mission and the will of the people,” he continued. “And right now, what people are asking us to do is to make sure that his administration, through the bureaucracy, is not doing that which they were unable to do in the legislative body in Congress.”
Cantor said he hopes House Republicans will embark on “a regular diet of spending cut bills being brought to the floor weekly.”
He also pressed for a permanent extension of all the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, which are scheduled to expire at the end of the year. Obama and Democratic leaders want to extend the cuts only for the first $250,000 in income for couples ($200,000 for individuals), but the president signaled an openness last week to negotiating a temporary extension for higher incomes.
“I really want to see that we can come together and agree upon the notion that Washington doesn’t need more revenues right now,” Cantor said. “And to sit here and say, ‘Well, we’re going to just go about halfway,’ or, ‘We’re going to send a signal that is going to be uncertain for job creators and investors to put capital to work,’ that’s exactly what we don’t need right now. We need to lift the veil of uncertainty.”
Cantor expressed willingness to work with the president in particular areas, including earmarks.
“The president did say this week that he’s willing to work with us,” Cantor said. “Now listen, are we willing to work with him? I mean, first and foremost, we’re not going to be willing to work with him on the expansive liberal agenda he’s been about. But if he’s serious about working with us on things like earmarks, for instance, which he said he would work with me on that, I’m absolutely hopeful that we can do that.”
But he said he fears Obama and House Democrats are not listening to the message that voters sent in Tuesday’s midterm elections, which swept Republicans back into power in the House. The likelihood that Speaker Nancy Pelosi will remain at the helm by becoming Minority Leader reflects that concern, he said.
“If Democratic Members in the House elect Nancy Pelosi as their leader, it’s almost as if they just didn’t get the message from the voters this election,” Cantor said. “I mean, the voters outright rejected the agenda that she’s been about. Here they’re going to put her back in charge.”
As for the leadership contests going on in his own party, Cantor applauded the conservative credentials of Reps. Michele Bachmann (Minn.) and Jeb Hensarling (Texas) but said he would continue to back Hensarling to become the next Conference chairman because of their history of work together.
“We are fortunate in the Republican Conference to have two good conservatives running for this position,” he said. “Both Jeb and Michele have a reputation as being some of the most common-sense, committed conservative — constitutional conservatives in our — in our Conference.”
Cantor said the decision will be up to Conference members. “You have an incoming class that is probably more diverse and more reflective of a growing conservative majority in this country than I’ve seen since I’ve been here in Washington. And these individuals will be allowed to vote for which conservative that they choose,” he said. “I mean, again, these are two conservatives. Neither individual could ever be accused of being anything but a conservative.”