Boehner: the president lacks 'guts' and 'courage'
February 12th, 2013
11:58 AM ET
5 years ago

Boehner: the president lacks 'guts' and 'courage'

Washington (CNN) - In personal and biting terms, House Speaker John Boehner argued that President Obama's failure to find agreement with Republicans is a result of his lack of
"courage" and "guts" to do what it takes.

"To do the kind of heavy lifting that needs to be done, I don't think he's got the guts to go do it," Boehner told a group of television reporters and anchors in a breakfast ahead of the president's State of the Union address.

Watch CNN's comprehensive coverage of President Barack Obama's State of the Union address starting Tuesday night at 7 p.m. ET on CNN TV and follow online at or via CNN's apps for iPhone, iPad and Android. Follow our real-time State of the Union live blog at

He even doubled down on that accusation, when pressed.

"He doesn't have the courage to take on the liberal side of his own party. I'm sorry but it's just clear as a bell to me," said Boehner.

Boehner repeatedly talked about the president's "liberal" agenda he laid out in his inaugural address, suggesting it is a signal that the president's focus for the next two years will not be reaching across the aisle, but helping Democrats retake control of the House.

"I think he'd love to have Nancy Pelosi as speaker and Harry Reid as majority leader for his last two years in office. Go back to the inaugural address. He knows that all of that liberal agenda he laid out, he knows none of that is going to happen as long as we have a majority in the House," said Boehner.

IMMIGRATION: "How about a little foreplay?"

The speaker offered mostly pessimism about striking any kind of compromise, whether on tax reform or the debt and deficit issue that tends to force the White House and Congress into crisis mode every few months. But he did sound optimistic about ongoing bipartisan immigration reform talks in both chambers.

He said he is reluctant to dive into specifics about the divisive issue for fear of messing things up.

In fact, when asked about whether he would support a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, Boehner responded with straight forward and saltiness he is often known for.

"Woah, woah slow down. How about a little foreplay," said a smiling Boehner, prompting some surprised and nervous laughter from reporters, and some red faces among Boehner aides.

Just like on economic issues, Boehner questioned the president's seriousness about getting something done on immigration.

"These bipartisan efforts in the House and Senate are the best shot we have at dealing with a big problem the thing I'm most concerned about is the president getting in the way. Sometimes I think he'd rather have an issue than have a solution," said Boehner.


Though Speaker Boehner said he certainly doesn't want the sequester – nearly $100 billion in deep cuts across the government to kick in on March 1, he also dug in deeply on the way around it: spending cuts and not new revenue, as Democrats are demanding.

"The president has gotten his revenue," was a line Boehner used nearly half a dozen times when talking about the sequester.

He also repeatedly threw the ball in Democrats court to find a way out of what he called "the president's sequester," arguing the House voted last year on a bill to replace the mandatory spending cuts, which were designed to go deep enough and cause enough pain for force Congress to act on broad deficit reduction.

When asked whether the cuts will kick in, Boehner responded "nobody knows."

Boehner: "I've gotten burned"

Speaker Boehner reiterated his vow to no longer try to negotiate wide ranging deals with the president, and instead work through "regular order" – let each body works its will, find compromise, and then send a bill to the president.

"I've tried repeatedly to come to agreement with the president. Every time I've gotten burned," said Boehner.

Later, Boehner said "I've tried over the last two years non stop working with the president, working with the president, never got there."

Boehner's hold on his speakership

Though Boehner had a rough ride, especially at the end of 2012, he said "I certainly plan to be here for a while."

"I have a job to do and I intend on doing it. I have no plans to leave. Period."

Filed under: Debt • Deficit • House • Immigration • John Boehner • President Obama
soundoff (406 Responses)
  1. bill.x

    In effect, Boehner describes a position that says he is no longer going to perform the function of the leader in the house. But that is not by choice. No one is following him. You are not a leader if no one is following. He is the leader of the house, come up with the goods. By that means something that your charges are not going to say no to after you have advanced a position in public and to the other leaders. He has zero credibility. It is easy to blame everyone else when you suckk.

    February 12, 2013 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  2. ThinkAgain: All of the GOP's policies are PROVEN FAILURES

    @CryBabies: "I'm choking on the regurgitated liberal talking points...reminds me of Alices experience down the rabbit hole. You lemmings can follow Mr. Obama...I,ll take tough love to get this country back in shape."

    If Repub economic policies are so great, then why after 8 years of Bush was our economy in free-fall?

    February 12, 2013 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  3. Ron

    This guy thinks the President should reach across the aisle? Obama repeatedly reached across the aisle for the last 4 years and it got him no-where, absolutely no-where with a recalcitrant GOP. BTW Boehner is the guy with no guts–he can't handle the extreme right-wing of his party.

    February 12, 2013 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  4. jb1963

    Ok Bonner. We can wait until 2014 and take all three branches then ram it down your throat.

    February 12, 2013 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  5. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    Hey John Boehner, more was accomlished in President Obama's first year than all of that accomplished in 8 years by GWB. You still want forplay???

    February 12, 2013 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  6. oneWayfarer

    ..As Said by a Speaker who can't get his Own Party to a Vote ...

    February 12, 2013 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  7. us_1776

    Boehner, still with the elementary school playground name-calling?

    When is the GOP ever going to grow up?


    February 12, 2013 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  8. longtooth

    Hypocrisy, thy name is Boehner. Goebbels said, if a lie is repeated often enough, it becomes the truth. Republicans are stubbornly testing that theory on many levels. So far, they have succeeded with 30% of the population.

    February 12, 2013 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  9. mike

    So, the obstructionist wonders why things aren't working out. What a weasel.

    February 12, 2013 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  10. rs

    From a man whose party contains both the TEA Party and the Birthers, maybe it makes sense that he wants the President to do HIS job too. For the rest of us, Mr. Boehner, it just makes you and your look pathetic and feeble. You are a cancer on America.

    February 12, 2013 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  11. Organic1

    Jim Beam... I mean John Boehner should really lay off the bottle, he will have withdrawal when the mid-term elections in 2014 becomes fact. Every time he opens his mouth it is to do one thing, try and make the President the one term elect, and it still does not work that way.

    February 12, 2013 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  12. Robert

    Speaking of lacking courage, how about cut the BS, pretending your party didn't support the sequester (we're not ALL going to fall for your blatant misrepresentaion of events), and start actually working towards a solution? Apparently you have so much time, you can just sit there and complain. How about shut up and get to work? Or do you not have the "guts" for it?

    February 12, 2013 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  13. Hogan's Goat

    Doesn't matter now. In two years the GOP will lie in ruins because of derps like this old orange fool, and the Democrats can do as they please with no opposition.

    February 12, 2013 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  14. joe

    What a pathetic excuse for Speaker he is. One of the worst ever. His ability to point fingers and make pointless accusations is inversely proportional to his political talents.

    February 12, 2013 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  15. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    Everyday that goes by, a republican and a conservative joins the democratic party. They're just tired of the in fighting, the deceipt, the hypocrisy, the game playing and the lies.

    February 12, 2013 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  16. tony

    Is it wrong to call teabaggers ignant people ?

    February 12, 2013 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  17. Anonymous

    I guess if they dont work it out, he will just have to shut it down.

    February 12, 2013 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  18. lovespandas

    All you libs are so full of it it would be comical were it not pathetic.

    February 12, 2013 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  19. John

    I be glad when 2014 get here so we can vote the Republican out of Control of Congress, they don't what to Compromise so they should go. And the Tea Party should have never been voted Into office In the First place.

    February 12, 2013 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  20. rlj

    "the president lacks 'guts' and 'courage'" – this from the man who twisted himself into pretty orange shreds for the tea party?

    February 12, 2013 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  21. dave

    This is the same man who said he got 98% of what he wanted, and was quite happy about it. Now he says he gets burned. Can't have it both ways. I guess you cannot expect any truthful conversation with the man. Only babble of the moment. Talk about no guts.

    February 12, 2013 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  22. ritmocojo

    The irony of it all is that this is coming from a card-carrying cry-baby. Go figure.

    February 12, 2013 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  23. Speak the Truth

    Boehner then retreated tearfully to his room with a quart of double fudge ice cream and cried all night.

    Wah! What a loser.

    February 12, 2013 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  24. larkwoodgirl

    He doesn't need guts because he had the votes. The republicans can only beat a dead horse for so long before they accept that the legislative failures are their fault. The election proved it.

    February 12, 2013 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  25. Jade

    Just keep poking at him Mr. Boehner and you will find out what growing up in Chicago can achieve in the area of guts and courage.

    February 12, 2013 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
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