The next House Majority Leader is so serious about cutting the federal budget that he is open to cutting defense spending, he said.
"I think, you know, we've got to have everything on the table right now, Matt," Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) told Matt Lauer of NBC's Today Show on Tuesday.
Cantor's answer came after Lauer asked him how the Republican-led House next session will cut federal spending, as its newly-elected leadership has promised.
"So let me try this again with you, Congressman. Are you willing to perhaps raise the Social Security retirement age? Are you willing to make cuts in Medicare? Are you willing to make cuts in defense spending? Are any of those issues on the table?" Lauer asked.
Cantor replied that what the American people demanded this election year "[is] that Washington's gotta start working for the people again and not the other way around."
"So everything should be on the table. I don't think we should leave any stone unturned, while we're trying to do what most people in this country have done which is tighten the belt, which is to try and live within our means," Cantor said.
Yet, as Cantor walked into a meeting with President Barak Obama today, he said that he would not support tax increases on the wealthiest Americans. The Obama administration has said it wants to eliminate the Bush-era tax cuts.
The Senate also today voted 36-56 to not temporarily ban congressional earmarks. Eight Republican senators voted to keep their earmark spending powers, including Thad Cochran (Miss.), Susan Collins (Maine), James Inhofe (Okla.), Dick Lugar (Ind.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Richard Shelby (Ala.), George Voinovich (Ohio), and Sen. Bob Bennett (Utah).
Cantor is the third elected Republican to specifically suggest cuts to US military spending. Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) and Senator-elect Rand Paul (R-KY) signed their names in support of defense cuts this summer. Paul said on ABC''s This Week earlier this month that he would vote for defense cuts.
"Yes, yes," Paul responded when asked specifically about his vote. In doing so, he highlighted the libertarian streak among some of the candidates propelled to office by the tea party movement. Like his father, Ron Paul, Rand Paul is considered to be at the libertarian end of the GOP's political spectrum, and libertarians have long been calling for a scaling back of US military ambitions.
"You need ... compromise on where the spending cuts come from," Paul told ABC's Christiane Amanpour. "Republicans traditionally say, oh, we'll cut domestic spending, but we won't touch the military. The liberals -- the ones who are good -- will say, oh, we'll cut the military, but we won't cut domestic spending."
But then there are those few Republicans inside the party that also support defense cuts, such as the late President Ronald Reagan's former budget director, David Stockman.
"This is not 1981," Stockman told Amanpour. "This is not 'morning again in America.' We've drifted now for 30 years."
Stockman continued, "In that 30 years, the deficit has gone up 14 times, but our economy is only four times larger. We're losing the race, and we're now becoming the banana republic [of] finance, printing -- the Fed, these mad men who are out of control at the Fed are printing new money equal to 100 percent of the debt that we're issuing each month. This will not end well. It's going to end in a disaster."
Stockman maintained that the country was at the "sundown as an imperialist power." He added, "We can't be the policemen of the world anymore because we can't afford it. We're going to have to cut defense drastically, and that just isn't fraud, waste, and abuse. It's forced structure. Fewer divisions."
With reporting by David Edwards and Daniel Tencer.
This video is from NBC's Today Show, broadcast Nov. 29, 2010.
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