Cantor defends GOP openness to new revenues in fiscal talks

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) on Monday said Republicans were showing openness to new revenues in a deficit-reduction plan because they understood they were elected to “fix problems.”

Cantor's defense came during an interview on MSNBC Monday, when he was asked why some Republicans who had previously rejected calls for new revenues, insisting instead on spending cuts and entitlement reform in a deficit deal, had shifted their stance.


Cantor said lawmakers understood the seriousness of the "fiscal cliff" challenge and were ready to take steps to prevent another recession. But he cautioned that Republicans would not back increasing tax rates.

"I think a lot of it has to do is we were reelected to fix problems, we were not reelected to raise taxes or increase marginal rates,” said Cantor. “We were elected to fix the problems, to get the economy going again and to fix the deficit."

Cantor said GOP lawmakers faced a stark choice ahead of the looming “fiscal cliff” of tax increases and automatic spending cuts, which economists warn could bring a new recession.

"Well the president got reelected and we know at the end of this year taxes are going up on everybody — everybody, rich, poor alike — we have marginal rates across the spectrum going up as well as [capital] gains, dividends, AMT, death tax, everything, right? This is the so-called fiscal cliff. So we know that is reality,” said Cantor. “That's what's changed, we know that. So why would we want to punish folks to see their taxes go up."

Efforts to reach a deficit deal in the 2011 talks over raising the debt limit faltered after Republicans rejected measures to raise new revenues, setting up the fiscal cliff. But with lawmakers headed back to Washington to start new negotiations on a deficit-reduction package to avoid the cliff, a number of Republicans have signaled a readiness to accept new revenues, if Democrats bring entitlement reform to the table.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) set the tone after the election, by saying he would accept new revenues “under the right conditions.”

Since then, a number of Republicans have also publicly expressed openness to the idea, with Sens. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) both publicly breaking with conservative activist Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge.

"I am willing to generate revenue," Graham said on Sunday, adding that he would “not raise tax rates to do it.”

While both sides appear far from a deal, the shift on revenues has been welcomed by Democrats, with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) on Sunday suggesting that his party should head to the negotiating table ready to discuss entitlement reform.

This story was updated at 12:27 p.m.