Republicans Continue Push for Tax Cuts, Fiscal Restraint but Few Specifics

GOP leaders defend keeping tax cuts for all

On Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace said to Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., who is expected to become the House majority leader when the new Congress is seated, that taxes would be “the big issue in the lame duck session,” and asked whether Cantor would support a plan to make tax cuts for the middle class permanent in exchange for a two- or three-year extension of cuts for the wealthy.

Cantor said no. “First of all, Chris, let's set the record straight,” he said. “No one's getting a tax cut here. One of two things is going to happen January 1. That is your rates are either going to—either going to go up or they're going to stay the same. So this notion that somehow we are passing tax cuts is just not true.” After this characterization of temporary tax cuts passed during the Bush administration, he moved on to the question of whether he would support lower taxes for one group in exchange for temporarily lower taxes for the other.

“And so, no, I am not for decoupling the rates,” he said, “because all that says to people looking to go back in and put capital to work and invest to create jobs is, ‘You're going to get taxed on any return that you can expect.’ I am not for raising taxes in a recession, especially when it comes to job creators that we need so desperately to start creating jobs again.”

Asked by Wallace again whether he might support a temporary extension of the Bush tax cuts for all, Cantor basically said no. Wallace tried a third time, and even a fourth: “Are you saying that if—it's either permanent extension of all the Bush tax cuts or nothing? . . . I’m trying to get a specific answer.”

Cantor replied that the money “is going to be spent one way or the other, and then finally said that Washington “doesn’t need more revenues right now . . . We need to lift the veil of uncertainty.”

Moving on, Wallace asked Cantor about Republican plans for cutting $100 billion from non-defense discretionary spending, which he said would amount to a 22% cut in those programs, although non-defense discretionary spending “is only 16% of the total federal budget . . . Do you really think that’s possible?” Cantor’s response was that the Congress would have to be re-oriented “back towards a cost-cutting and a job-creating Congress.”

From there the discussion turned to earmarks—Wallace asked why not end them permanently, and Cantor’s reply did not really answer his question—and raising the debt ceiling. “Republicans are apparently planning to demand even further spending cuts from the president in return for raising the debt ceiling,” Wallace said. “If he refuses, does that mean that you're willing to let this country go into default?”

Cantor replied that the new Congress would have at least three to four months to prove that it could cut costs, and if it came to that, it would be the president’s fault, not that of the Congress.

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., set to take over the House Budget Committee, was asked about his plans for the Committee “Bring fiscal accountability,” he replied. “Spending cuts. Spending reforms. Get the budget on the right glide path and prevent a huge tax increase from happening in the future so we can get job creation.”

When Wallace asked about the promised $100 billion in budget cuts the first year, enumerating some of the cuts Democrats had said would occur in the course of Republicans keeping that promise, Ryan characterized his specifics as “the Washington Monument strategy, which is put out the most glaring kinds of cuts and show that this is going to be—how devastating it is.” Pressed for specifics of his own, Ryan mentioned the EPA and the stimulus, then called the Fed’s QE2 strategy “a big mistake.”

He also mentioned that they could de-fund specific roll-outs of the health care reform law, although he acknowledged that such a strategy might be difficult with Obama in the White House. As an alternate strategy to prevent the implementation of health care reform, he cited using attorneys general and legal challenges to the bill. With Texas already discussing opting out of Medicaid, such a strategy is definitely in the works.

David Gregory, who hosts Meet the Press on NBC, tackled some of the same subjects with Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., who firmly stated, “first of all, we have to stop the funding of Obamacare. . . .” But Gregory asked about earmarks, which are a hot-button topic among Tea Partiers but of which Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said, “you could eliminate every congressional earmark and it would save no money.” DeMint believes that earmarks will end up being banned, not just treated “with discretion,” as McConnell has suggested.

Next Gregory tackled the debt ceiling, and DeMint said he would not vote to extend the ceiling “unless this debt ceiling is combined with some path to balancing our budget, returning to 2008 spending levels, repealing Obamacare.” Gregory asked which part of the budget would be targeted for cuts, since only 15% is non-defense discretionary. DeMint replied that an earmark ban, defunding of health care reform, and entitlement programs were on the line.

Gregory stopped DeMint and asked for specifics, because “going back to 2008 spending levels will not get anywhere close to balancing the budget.” Then he asked if DeMint was saying “that everything has to be on the table—cuts in defense, cuts in Medicare, cuts in Social Security. Is that right?”

DeMint demurred, saying that Social Security was not in line for cuts, although “administrative waste” was. Again Gregory asked for specifics, but DeMint referred again to cutting health care reform and Paul Ryan’s “road map to the future.”

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