Exclusive: Eric Cantor Doesn't Question August 2 Debt Ceiling Deadline

House Majority Leader doesn't doubt Obama's deadline warnings.

ByABC News
June 3, 2011, 4:54 PM

June 6, 2011 -- 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.