House Majority Leader Eric Cantor had a “combative” debate about budget cuts during his Thursday visit to Harvard University, reports The Hill.
Cantor told audience members that purging funds for popular programs was a necessary “tradeoff” in difficult economic times. The majority leader delivered a 15-minute speech and engaged in what The Hill describes as a “combative” question and answer session.
Students urged Cantor to restore cuts to funds for HIV/AIDS prevention and AmeriCorps organizations such as Teach for America, which were included in the bill approved by the House Republican majority last week.
One student asked if Cantor would “save one million lives” by restoring $1.5 billion in cuts to global HIV/AIDS funding.
“This is about trade offs. This is about that we don’t have the money. We just don’t,” Cantor replied.
Students responded by chanting “Fund Global Health!” and were consequently escorted out of the auditorium.
Cantor said he appreciated the exchange of dialogue with students. Before delving into a question, one student said Cantor had “a radical, free-market fundamentalist ideology” and suggested that the Republican budget cuts were intended to delay economic recovery.
“I want to congratulate you on a very creative design for a question,” the majority leader said with a smile.
“Before us is a choice about who we want to be as a country, and believe me, there is a choice,” Cantor said.
Trey Grayson, president of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics, opened the program by requesting students to be civil, as protests were planned to take place outside the event.
Cantor said the country needs smaller government and less spending, and added that the Republican agenda was right to vote in favor of Planned Parenthood federal funding cuts. The majority leader said he’s against same-sex marriage and went on to criticize the Obama administration for its decision to quit defending the Defense of Marriage Act.
Before the event ended, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee issued a statement criticizing the majority leader.
“Eric Cantor is only a reminder that he spent taxpayer money like a drunken sailor during the Bush years and is happy to keep spending it as long as it goes to his corporate special interest buddie,” DCCC spokesman Jesse Ferguson said.