NBC's Matt Lauer, on Tuesday's Today show, invited on soon to be House Majority Leader Eric Cantor to discuss today's meeting of Republican congressional leaders with Barack Obama, and in the process tried to force Cantor to move in the President's direction on raising taxes. The Today co-anchor opened the conversation by wondering if Cantor was going into the meeting in the mood for "compromise or confrontation" and then quickly brought up the issue of extending the Bush era tax cuts as he pressed: "Could you not see possibly raising taxes just a little bit?" on those making over $250,000 a year.
Cantor responded that job growth and tax cuts were intertwined as he educated Lauer: "We want to make sure that we're doing everything to get people back to work right now and that means we've got to ensure that taxes don't go up on anybody, especially on the small businesses that we're expecting to create jobs so we can finally bring the unemployment down."
(video after the jump)
The following is the relevant portion of Lauer's interview with Cantor as it was aired on the November 30 Today show:
MATT LAUER: Republican Congressman Eric Cantor of Virginia is the newly elected House Majority Leader. Congressman Cantor, good to see you. Thanks for joining us.
REP. ERIC CANTOR: Matt, good morning.
[On screen headline: "Across The Aisle, Will White House Compromise With GOP?"]
LAUER: Before we talk about specifics of this meeting today, let's talk about tone. There is a lot of mistrust between the two parties, some battle scars from the midterms. Are you walking into that room today in the mood for compromise or confrontation?
CANTOR: You know Matt, we're walking into the room with the realization that we're not gonna agree with the President on everything. We, we understand that, but I do hope that we can, out of this meeting today leave with a resolve to try and address the economy. And one of the most important things that we can do there is to ensure that taxes and rates don't go up for anybody right now while we have such unemployment.
LAUER: So no compromise there at all? I mean could you not see possibly raising taxes just a little bit on the people who make $250,000 a year or if you want to leave those in place, perhaps raise taxes a little bit on people who make over a million dollars a year?
CANTOR: You know, Matt, I think what we heard on November 2nd from the people of this country is number one, they want to see Washington start producing results. And so I'm hoping this meeting at the White House is going to be in that direction and different from those in the past that we can actually set aside some of the ideological extremes and come together where most Americans are. We want to make sure that we're doing everything to get people back to work right now and that means we've got to ensure that taxes don't go up on anybody, especially on the small businesses that we're expecting to create jobs so we can finally bring the unemployment down.
LAUER: Alright, so what you're telling me is no compromise whatsoever on the Bush era tax cuts?
CANTOR: Well listen, Matt. One, one or two things that's gonna happen in January, either taxes are go up or they stay the same. Nobody's getting a tax cut here. So there's no compromise or not on, on that particular issue. We're just saying that we don't think tax rates should go up-
CANTOR: -when we're suffering in such an economy.
LAUER: You talk about the message sent by voters in the midterm elections, one of the things those voters want, they want to cut spending. And the problem is how do you do it? 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?
CANTOR: I think, you know, we've got to have everything on the table right now, Matt. That's also what we heard from the people on November 2nd. 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.
—Geoffrey Dickens is the Senior News Analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here