Cantor Open to Closing Tax Loopholes If Met with Tax Cuts

By John R Parkinson

Jul 6, 2011 5:15pm

ABC News’ John R. Parkinson (@JRPabcDC) reports:

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor dismissed the notion that he abandoned the bipartisan Biden deficit reduction negotiations over a quibble on closing trivial tax loopholes, and signaled new flexibility to end the tax breaks as long as any tax increases are off-set by tax cuts someplace else.

“To hear the President come forward and indicate that somehow that those talks stopped or blew up over loopholes is just not the case,” Cantor, R-Va., said. “The Biden talks ended or in my opinion stopped, because there was an impasse. Clearly the other side, the Democrats, wished to impose tax hikes on small businesses and families in this country.”

During a presidential town hall discussion conducted over Twitter Wednesday, President Obama continued to criticize Republicans on the issue.

“The debt ceiling should not be something that is used as a gun against the heads of the American people to extract tax breaks for corporate jet owners, for oil and gas companies that are making billions of dollars because the price of gasoline has gone up so high,” President Obama said. “I mean, I'm happy to have those debates.  I think the American people are on my side on this.”

But Cantor said that the savings created from ending the tax breaks are minor when compared with the overall cuts discussed in the Biden negotiations over the past month and a half.

“Think about the revenues that [President Obama] is talking about,” Cantor said. “The changes that he is advocating and the depreciation scheduled for corporate-owned jets is about $3 billion over 10 years.  That is in the context of the over $2 trillion in savings that the Biden talks could envision.”

“I have said from day one, we are not for tax hikes on the American people or businesses, and if the President wants to talk loopholes, we'll be glad to talk loopholes,” Cantor said. “We've said all along that preferences in the code aren't something that helps economic growth overall. But, listen, we are not for any proposal that increases taxes, and any type of discussion should be coupled with offsetting tax cuts somewhere else.”

Cantor, the House’s No. 2 ranked Republican, welcomed President Obama’s invitation for congressional leadership to come to the White House Thursday to continue negotiations, but chastised the president for implying that lawmakers have been slacking off.

“Talking points associated with corporate jets and loopholes are just that: they are talking points, and they are not substantive in terms of what we are trying to do,” Cantor said.  “For the President to suggest that we have not been hard at work, I'm going to tell him tomorrow, come on, you know, we don't have to wait until July 22nd. Let's do the deal tomorrow.”

“I just find it interesting that the President wants to somehow suggest yet another date as if we have not been working towards a result for the last 6 or 7 weeks,” he added. “I mean, come on. We should be looking at tomorrow as an opportunity, not just keep dangling some date and keep inching it backwards. That only contributes to the hyperbole around here. Let's get serious.”

While the bipartisan talks have stalled, Cantor said that he is “hopeful” that the more than $2 trillion in savings over 10 years produced from the Biden negotiations could still provide the framework once an overall deal to increase the debt limit is constructed.

“That deal is still in the works and I believe is still there, and that we can deliver on,” Cantor said. “We have a lot more work to do, and that is why this is a blueprint for us to put forward a down payment on actually getting the fiscal house in order once and for all, living up to the goals that the Speaker set, which is the goal of making sure we deliver cuts commensurate with, or exceeding the amount, we raise the debt limit.”

Minority Whip Steny Hoyer said that in the next few days lawmakers must “make it crystal clear to the world that America pays its bills” by passing an agreement, and called for Republicans to take their ultimatum for no tax increases off the table.

“If Congress has the will to do so, we could pass a debt limit extension within 24 hours,” Hoyer, D-Maryland, said. “Republicans need to put everything on the table and understand you cannot get there from here without putting everything on the table, which includes revenues.”

Hoyer, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, said that Democrats are “prepared to cooperate in order to assure that the credit worthiness in the United States of America is not put at risk."  

“I’ve said everything needs to be on the table,” Hoyer added. “Everything needs to be on the table and when I say everything, I mean everything.”

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