House Majority Leader Eric Cantor says he has no reason to doubt the Obama Administration's dire warnings that the federal debt limit must be raised by August 2nd to avoid negative economic consequences -- but insists that the limit will not be raised without trillions of dollars in "real spending reductions."
Asked if August 2 is the absolute deadline to reach an agreement or whether the date is an arbitrary target set by the Treasury Department, Cantor did not challenge the deadline.
"Secretary Geithner feels August 2 is his deadline," Cantor told ABC News in an exclusive interview for the Subway Series with Jonathan Karl. "I don't question the Secretary of the Treasury other than to say we're trying to get in place real spending reductions -- trillions of dollars of spending reductions -- if the president wants us to increase the credit limit of this country by trillions of dollars."
The statement could put Cantor at odds with many House conservatives who have expressed suspicion and doubt over the administration's warning that the deadline to strike a deal to raise the debt ceiling is August 2.
Cantor (R-Va.) himself had previously minimized the magnitude of the August 2 deadline –- the date by which Geithner says a deal must be reached "in order to protect the full faith and credit of the United States and avoid catastrophic economic consequences for citizens."
"The markets are not fooled by some date imposed to say that that is the trigger for the collapse," Cantor said May 18. "What I think is that the markets are looking to see credible progress on changing the fiscal trajectory in Washington."
Cantor, who is the House GOP's representative at the bipartisan deficit reduction talks led by Vice President Joe Biden, says he believes both sides will be able to ultimately reach an agreement to cut trillions from the deficit.
"It is necessary that the increase in the debt ceiling be commensurate with the kinds of cuts that we can accomplish. And we're looking for more. In our budget we've projected $6.2 trillion of savings over 10 years. The president's budget has over $4 trillion. We can accomplish those numbers. I think the nation's going to be better off," Cantor said. "We can set ourselves on a trajectory that the fiscal house can look a lot better and we can get back to the discussion of how we're gonna once again be a leader in terms of economic growth and job creation."
Last Friday, the government released the latest jobs data, with the unemployment rate increasing to 9.1 percent while the country added just 54,000 jobs to its payrolls -- far fewer than economists had projected.
Cantor said that "everything seems to be going in the wrong direction," but denied that Republicans deserve a share of the blame for the stagnant economic recovery.
"What we've done is, we've tried to put across the floor every week bills to get [our] fiscal house in order, and bills to get Washington off the backs of small businesses and the middle class," Cantor said.
"When I go around my district as well as other parts of the country, what I hear from small businesses is Washington's in the way, and when are we finally going to get folks in Washington who understand how to make sure that they're able to grow their business. We don't want any more bigger government. Government regulation has gotten extreme in terms of the ability to help people form their own businesses and grow," he said.
"We're trying to change that. We're trying to make it so that people can actually grow their business. Working people and the middle class can get back to work and have some optimism," he added. "You look at the administration and you look at the Senate. They have been unwilling to embrace our pro-growth strategy and agenda. We're trying to bring them along."
Cantor Predicts Obama Will Be Defeated in 2012; Republicans Will Retain House
Nearly two years ago, when he was the House Minority Whip, Cantor made a bold prediction to ABC News that was seen as preposterous in the months after the Democratic victories in 2008.
"I really believe we've got a shot at taking back this House because you see what's gone on here with the unfettered ability of this administration and Nancy Pelosi to run this Congress," Cantor told ABC News on June 10, 2009. "The American people see that this agenda is way far out of the mainstream. They want a check and a balance on this power. And I think at the end of the day that's what rules come November 2010."
Fast-forward two years: Cantor is the House Majority Leader, and is once again making a big prediction about an election 18 months away.
"I believe that President Obama will be defeated in November of 2012," Cantor told ABC News in an exclusive interview for the Subway Series with Jonathan Karl. "The American people are witnessing a president who may make good speeches, but doesn't deliver, and right now the issue is jobs and the economy and from every small business person that I speak to, they're complaining about Washington standing in the way."
Pressed whether he's taking the field of Republicans over Obama or if he has a particular candidate in mind, Cantor said that the bigger question is "what kind of country are we going to be?"
"All of the Republicans in the field understand that we have serious challenges before us. We've got to get the fiscal house straight here in Washington. It's time for us to stop kicking the can down the road and the presidential candidates in the Republican field have all embraced the thought that we've got to be bold and address these problems so that we can continue to return to growth in the his country," Cantor said. "That is in stark contrast to the record of this administration and frankly, if you look, there are no plans by this administration to get the fiscal house in order."
Last week, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told ABC News in an exclusive interview that Democrats "have a very good chance of winning the House" in 2012.
Cantor dismissed Pelosi's own confident forecast, and also downplayed the results of a special election in New York's 26th congressional district last month where Democrat Kathy Hochul defeated Republican Jane Corwin in a traditionally ruby-red district.
"I'm sure Speaker Pelosi -- former Speaker Pelosi -- would like to be speaker again. I do not think that she will be able to do that," Cantor predicted. "The Democrats haven't even put forward a credible plan to get the fiscal house in order much less trying to grow this economy, and what the American people want to see is they want to see growth again."
"There is no question that the people of western New York in that race that occurred [May 24] or anywhere else in the country that jobs and the economy is the priority, and what we've said all along is you have to take the dual track approach." Cantor added. "We got to have to an agenda that focuses on the fiscal picture -- which is 'the cut' and then we have to grow -- as part of a larger picture here that cuts alone are not going to get as there. It's about growth."
Cantor insists that the spending reductions passed by the House through the Ryan Budget should remain on the table throughout negotiations with Washington Democrats while both sides work to strike a deal to increase the statutory debt limit.
"We continue to advocate that we've got to save the entitlement programs and we know that the driver in the fiscal deficit in this country is healthcare entitlements. So we've put our plan on the table," Cantor said. "The Democrats and the president have continued to demagogue, you know, the Ryan budget and the Medicare proposals in the budget and they continue to say that they don't like it but they have yet to put a plan on the table to even counter that. They've not said how they are going to save these programs."
"Are you going to save the program or are you going to bankrupt the program? The only response that is evident by this administration is they believe that they can ration healthcare by Washington to a point that it goes bankrupt," Cantor added. "Knowing what drives the deficit we put out a plan and I am encouraging leadership -- leadership that is non-existent right now from the president and his party that choose only to demagogue the issue, and use tactics decades old to scare people. And that's not leadership."