Rep. Cantor: Small Businesses Need To Create Jobs

Rising unemployment has Americans worried. Many are concerned that the economy isn't getting any better. And in Congress, the debate over the $787 billion stimulus package has resurfaced. Rep. Eric Cantor, the Republican whip from Virginia, talks with Steve Inskeep about the economy. He says investments have to be made in small businesses, so in turn, those businesses will create jobs.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

The White House has spent part of this week dealing with economic anxiety. Rising unemployment numbers - 9.5 percent now - may be connected to some slipping poll numbers.

Yesterday, Ohio Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown told us that people are frustrated. They expected a big economic stimulus plan to show more results sooner. One big question is how much longer the White House can blame the economy on the last president.

We dropped by the office of a leading House Republican, Eric Cantor of Virginia. He's already argued that the stimulus failed.

Here's something I'd like to know: In your mind what is a reasonable amount of time to give this administration to do whatever it can to turn the economy around that it says it inherited?

Representative ERIC CANTOR (Republican, Virginia): Steve, I don't necessarily think that's the right way to approach this question. When we considered the first stimulus bill in January, representations were made, promises were made by President Obama that if we acted quickly and passed the bill we'd be able to stave off job loss and stop the unemployment rate from exceeding 8.5 percent. So I think that the proper test is the representations and promises that were made did not come to fruition.

INSKEEP: But the reason I ask that is because, as you know, the administration has said, wait a minute, we never said it would work in the first few months. We have not even gotten around to spending all the money yet. Give us a little bit of time.

What is a reasonable amount of time to give them?

Rep. CANTOR: Well, again, this is not what the administration said. The administration said that we needed to act with a sense of urgency. That is how we were going to be able to save jobs and avoid folks from having to go in the unemployment lines.

That should still be our goal. We shouldn't have been expediting the review of an 1,100-page bill without anyone in the House reading it if the course that we expected was going to be a one- or two- or three- or four-year period in which to see the money go out. That's where we get into the situation where you waste taxpayer dollars.

INSKEEP: Although the administration is saying now it took years to get into this mess, it'll take time to get out, what's a reasonable amount of time? What's the time on the clock for him as far as you're concerned?

Rep. CANTOR: Steve, there's not a question - and we shouldn't be arguing about how we got here because that's pointing blame. I think the American people are tired of that. They want to know how we're getting out of this situation. Republicans had a plan. I went and personally gave him our stimulus plan back in January. We still want to work with this president.

The way we see an economic recovery coming about is through investment. We've got to get small businesses back into the business of putting their money to work, taking risks so that jobs can be created.

INSKEEP: Do you think the economy will be the heart of next year's congressional elections?

Rep. CANTOR: Well, listen, no one has a perfect crystal ball, but clearly I think that the economic situation before us needs to be satisfied in order for the electorate to begin to have some confidence in their leadership. I think what you're seeing in polling right now is a reflection of the fact that this president and this Congress own this economy.

INSKEEP: How many Democrats, do you think, are vulnerable?

Rep. CANTOR: Steve, again, you look at the numbers out of last election, there are 49 Democrats sitting in seat if John McCain won. Obviously, not all of those are vulnerable, but I do think you start there. And then, you also begin to look at the seats that have, you know, individuals who are new to Congress that perhaps were in seats that were held by, you know, the Republican candidate prior.

So, I do think that there are a sufficient number of vulnerable Democrats that will allow Republicans to make significant gains if not take over this Congress and the U.S. House in 2010.

INSKEEP: Congressman, thanks very much.

Rep. CANTOR: Steve, thank you.

INSKEEP: Congressman Eric Cantor, Republican whip from Virginia.

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