Former Democratic aide turned journalist George Stephanopoulos on Thursday parroted Nancy Pelosi and warned the Republican Majority Leader about taking away health care benefits from Americans. The Good Morning America anchor also repeatedly needled Eric Cantor on the details of the GOP plan to cut spending.
On the subject of health care, Stephanopoulos recited, "And yesterday, the outgoing House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, really threw down the gauntlet in her speech, laying out the benefits Americans will get, she says Americans will get, thanks to the passage of health reform." After playing a clip of the ex-Speaker, he chided, "Do you think Americans really want to lose the benefits outlined by Nancy Pelosi?"
At no time did Stephanopoulos wonder about the cost of the "benefits" or where they came from. Instead, he pressed Cantor on the difficulty of cutting spending, asking five times for a specific number: "What is the target House Republicans are trying to meet this year in spending cuts? And can you lay out, specifically, how you're going to get there?...What's the number?"
Now, one could call this questioning a Republican from the right. But, Stephanopoulos and other journalists failed to highlight the depth and scope of the deficit when the Democrats controlled the House.
A transcript of the January 6 segment, which aired at 7:05am EST, follows:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: The White House will be dealing with a new Republican majority on Capitol Hill. And on their first day of power in the House, we are now joined by their new majority leader, Congressman Eric Cantor. Congratulations, Congressman.
ERIC CANTOR: Thanks, George. Good morning.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I know you spoke with President Obama yesterday and we just heard from Jake Tapper about the possibility of the big staff changes at the White House, as well. From what you're seeing and hearing from the White House, are you optimistic about bipartisan cooperation in 2011?
CANTOR: George, I am. Republicans come to Washington as a new majority, looking to deliver results for the people of this country. And when I spoke to the President yesterday, I told him, we are very interested in what he has to say in the next couple of weeks, especially when he comes up here to deliver the State of the Union address. And I spoke to him about the kind of spending cuts I hope he proposes in that address. I told him, also, that we'll be looking to see what type of ideas he's got for tax reform. The President acknowledged to me, there's a lot of competition in this world and our economy is faltering right now. And we have to get back in our game so America can start winning again.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Of course, you'll also be looking to undo his signature legislative achievement from the last Congress, health care reform. First order of business is repeal. And yesterday, the outgoing House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, really threw down the gauntlet in her speech, laying out the benefits Americans will get, she says Americans will get, thanks to the passage of health reform. Take a look.
NANCY PELOSI: It means that children with pre-existing conditions can get care. Young people can stay on their parents' policy until they're 26. Pregnant women with breast and prostate cancer patients can no longer be thrown off their insurance. Our seniors are paying less for medical prescriptions.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you think Americans really want to lose the benefits outlined by Nancy Pelosi?
CANTOR: Well, unlike the allegations that the former Speaker made in that address, Republicans do care about people having health care. And we know there's a better way. And I think in the election that occurred in the last couple months demonstrated that people in this country did not like the Obamacare bill. Neither do we Republicans. And that's why we're going to put a repeal bill across the floor, next Wednesday, so that we can send a signal that we're dead-serious, about getting rid of the spending of the money we don't have. And making sure that we stop the job-killing regulations that have followed after the passage of that bill.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But, if repeal were to pass, all of the things that the Speaker, former Speaker, laid out there would go away.
CANTOR: George, there is a better way. And part of the resolution that we're going to be voting on next week, is going to instruct our committees and the members of Congress to deliberate in an expedited way, as to how we can better provide an environment for access to health care for more Americans. We know that the Obamacare bill costs too much. It will provide the environment where people will lose the health care that they know. And that's not what Americans want. Republicans have always talked about a health care environment which you had more choice, which you can shop for insurance across state lines, where the emphasis is on the doctor/patient relationship. And we can provide some competition so we can bring down costs. That's what we republicans are for. And again, I hope we can, sort of, dial back the partisan rhetoric you heard from Nancy Pelosi and work together to deliver those results.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You mentioned you wanted to work with President Obama on spending cuts. In your Pledge to America, you promised $100 billion in spending cuts in the first year. That now seems scaled back, according to various reports, to 50 or $60 billion. Can you pin that down right now? What is the target House Republicans are trying to meet this year in spending cuts? And can you lay out, specifically, how you're going to get there?
CANTOR: George, the target in the pledge to America was to reduce discretionary, non-defense spending, down to '08 levels. And that's what we're going to do.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It said $100 billion several times in that document, Congressman. You know that.
CANTOR: The $100 billion was based on the fiscal year. And what happened, as you know, when the Democrats ended the session last time, they didn't pass a budget. So, we're in a situation where we have no budget right now. And we're going to work hard to bring spending down to '08 levels. And whether that-
STEPHANOPOULOS: What's the number?
CANTOR: Whether that happens- well, we are going to accomplish more than $100 billion in cuts over the term of this Congress. We are going to-
STEPHANOPOULOS: But, not the first year, as you promised?
CANTOR: We're going to- George, what we promised was, we were going to bring spending down to '08 levels. Okay? And I think all of us know that the sun rose and set in 2008. This is pre-bailout, pre-stimulus levels, so we can begin to return this country back to a path of fiscal sustainability, so we can get people back to work.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Congressman, we're out of time. I just want to get a number. Is it 30, 40 or $50 billion?
CANTOR: George, I tell you, you won't give up. This is '08- this is '08 levels, George. And the mess we're in is because there is no budget left from the Democrats during their majority. And we're working as quickly as we can to dispatch our committees so that we can identify the areas of savings. Everything's on the table. So that we can start living within our means, just as every family and business person out there across this country is having to do each day.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Okay. Congressman, thanks for your time this morning. Again, congratulations.
CANTOR: Thank you, George.
— Scott Whitlock is a news analyst for the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.