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. AprilElaine

    ANYONE who thinks Obama is a dictator are IDIOTS and need to read the definition of what a dictator is. Lets just blame all of America's problems on Obama because that is so much easier than facing reality. And reality is the Republicans are so LEFT WINGED they dont live in our CENTURY, nor do they want to come to a middle ground. Until they are able to work with the Democrats and wake up from the fantasy world they live in, the mess we live in now will continue!!

    February 12, 2013 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  2. Deez

    The ol' reverse psychology trick, 'eh? "Boener, you don't have the GUTS to stop using spray tan." Let's see if it works...

    February 12, 2013 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  3. Drake

    And Boehner doesn't have the courage to put the booze and cigs down.
    Another bitter loser Republican.
    The only one worse is McCain...he needs to take his decrepit bitter self back to Arizona.
    No wonder the Repugs can't win an election.

    February 12, 2013 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  4. HarvTy

    Obamabots truly are a frightening bunch. By all means do not try to match Obama's pretty speeches with effective action. Just demonize, name call and act like quasi-intellectuals that could make a utopia if everyone who disagreed would just shut up and act like good little sheeple.

    February 12, 2013 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  5. Anonymous

    Ahhh... Seeing as Beohner courage to take on the nutty side of his own party ! ! !
    Remember the budet negotiation/fiscal cfill deal 2010 and just this past year end anyone ?
    Ms Boehner, may I loan you a mirror?
    You have got to love Boehner : )

    February 12, 2013 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  6. vidal808

    What, is that morone still the Speaker? I thought they got rid of him and got someone that can read and write?

    February 12, 2013 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  7. Colorado

    Keep it up GOP!! I already switched my party affiliations. So go ahead and implode.

    February 12, 2013 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  8. roro

    Well if this isn't the pot calling the kettle black! Boehner's got some nerve calling out the President when it is he, Boehner, who can't control the fringe nuts in his own party. Boehner doesn't have the backbone, guts, or smarts to corral the tea party terrorists in the Republican party, starting with Evil Eric. Just what does Cantor have against the Violence Against Women Act? Does it mean he is for violence against women? Two gigantic jackholes.

    February 12, 2013 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  9. Bob

    This fool talks about guts and courage while refusing to tax the rich a little more, or cut the tax breaks for the rich and big oil yep sounds like a fool GOP member to me. Real courage would be to tell the tea party to go pound sand.

    February 12, 2013 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  10. SC

    I can't wait until 2014 to say GOODBYE to the GOP and Boehner.

    February 12, 2013 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  11. Beverly - NYC

    "Lacks guts and courage" – Really Mr. my own part sold me out on the fiscal cliff. guts and courage are not all you're lacking Mr. Boehner. How many vacation days have you planned for the do nothing 113 congress ?

    February 12, 2013 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  12. RandyKC

    This is just the tone of rhetoric I expect from that crybaby. Why not just thumb your nose at the president and yell 'Naner-naner-naner'? It would be just as mature.

    February 12, 2013 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  13. Shem

    The Democratic party is so in the tank for Obama they even think his poor decisions have been helpful. Slowest recovery in recorded history with epedemic unemployment numbers and they still beat the drum like he is the second coming. Thats not too much a surprise since we all know liberalism is their religion.

    February 12, 2013 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  14. Lynette in CA

    Boehner should never say the words "courage and guts!" Do the repugs realize they are complete laughing stocks?? Saying these things is just stupid

    February 12, 2013 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  15. texasnotea

    Here's what Boehner calls working with the President: " If you don't accept our spending cut proposal's, we will not automatically increase the debt ceiling" (like we did for Reagan 11 times without a hitch) ' We think you are lying about Benghazi (like you lied about your birth certificate), so we will not vote yes for any of your appointments."And, " Anything and everything you want we will not vote for because, well, because the voters really meant to vote for us in the last election they just didn't understand our message because we didn't complete the sentence.

    February 12, 2013 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  16. scottf

    Every time I listen to the current version of the GOP I think of the movie IDIOCRACY. At the very best they are a really , really bad REALITY show, along the lines of HEEHAW!!!.

    February 12, 2013 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  17. Andrew

    Boehner is saying someone does not have guts? Well Boehner, did you get Eric's permission to say that?

    February 12, 2013 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  18. craig

    Talk about a lack of guts. Boehner, when are you going to take on the crazoids in your own party? The President has offered to meet you many times, somewhere in the middle, but your party doesn't even acknowledge there IS a middle, let alone offer to go there. Your continual "my way or the highway" as shown you to be exactly what you claim to be...uninterested in anything that isn't your idea. Too bad you have no clue what the American People want, even though we told you in November. In foreplay...we don't want more of what you're dishing up, and the vote proved it. You lost the Senate (again) you lost the White House (again), and if you hadn't gerrymandered the House districts, you'd have lost there too...and, on a raw vote count, you did! Stop demanding to drive when nobody wants to go down your road! Watching you and your party implode is the most entertainment I had in years.

    February 12, 2013 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  19. Juanita Bishop

    Seems to me, Mr Boehner, that you are the one with no guts to stand up against the tea party and do what you know is right. You disgust me.

    February 12, 2013 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  20. jane

    @just sayin – – Good lord man (?) what color is the sky in your world?

    February 12, 2013 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  21. Hogan's Goat

    What a bunch of whiny old ladies.

    February 12, 2013 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  22. Buc

    Beohner makes another useless comment. Red meat rhetoric in lieu of statesmanship, again.

    February 12, 2013 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  23. Rich

    This coming from a guy who cries at the drop of a hat. That's our "Weeper of the House."

    February 12, 2013 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  24. Aaron Steinberg

    The GOP are liars, hypocrites and slimy as whale poop. They've raised holy hell regarding the four unfortunate American deaths at the Embassy, but obviously no concern for four thousand deaths of brave Americans and severely wounded returning heroes. They will not hold their Republican President Bush responsible for sending these brave young men and women into harms way based on a lie, WMD's which have never been found and the many civilian lives lost in his quest. Yet, they blame President Obama for the continuing economic and employment problems but leave on the GOP Congress' table, failing to consider for passing the American Jobs Bill or the Veterans Work Bill which President Obama passed to the GOP Congress last year!! Now who is unamerican, I sayJohn Boehner, Mitch McConnell and their evil, mean spirited minions!!

    February 12, 2013 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  25. teej

    wow! What does it take to get through to these guys??

    February 12, 2013 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
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