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. Rudy NYC

    tibs wrote:

    If you support democrats, youre wrong.
    If you support republicans, youre wrong.
    There's a colorful metaphor for pitching complaints and criticism without offering any solutions.

    February 12, 2013 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  2. Bob

    I suspect this is posturing in advance of the SOTU where Obama will indirectly (or, maybe directly) flay the GOP.

    February 12, 2013 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  3. JohnnyInSNJ

    ...said the man with no guts.

    February 12, 2013 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  4. sameeker

    Obama is the first president to stand up to the republicans, who are dead set on doing everything for the wealthy and licking the poor. The republicans are locked into the trickle down mentality that we know does not work.

    February 12, 2013 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  5. Lynda/Minnesota

    I am so done listening to Boehner whine.

    February 12, 2013 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  6. db

    The one lacking guts an courage is Boehner. The president has offered several reasonable proposals but Boehner refuses to stand up to the extremists in his party and compromise with the president instead of demanding the president to compromise to their terms.

    February 12, 2013 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  7. PatheticCNN

    @Dominican mama 4 Obama
    President Obama very well knows that he won because of the Stupidity of American People Not Standing Up to the Fiscal Responsibility.

    February 12, 2013 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  8. Oliver Dyer

    Well, Mr. Boehner if I were to engage in an attempt to reach an agreement with someone, I would not start out by berating them. That won't get you very far!!!

    February 12, 2013 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  9. Ione

    In response to Scott: You are seriously behind the times as are most of the far right zealots. Gay rights are here to stay. Obama is not attempting to take guns away from "sane people". And, immigration and climate change are two very important issues needing attention. Continue to keep your head buried in the sand. These issues will continue to command attention until they are successfully dealt with. You and your party are fighting a losing battle.

    February 12, 2013 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  10. shelbyanne

    Don't this dude ever get tired of backstabbing the President.

    February 12, 2013 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  11. Hijinks55

    Boehner is a good man in an impossible situation.

    He is right to stop negotiating with the president. It gets us nowhere.

    The Senate should pass a budget and follow regular order.

    February 12, 2013 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  12. Noah

    He is right. You can't negotiate in good faith with the President as he either does not follow through due to pressure or walks away. Obama is a pitiful leader if you could call him one. We have mid level managers in the company I work for that could do a better job running the country that our current spendthrift. Put through a bill to avoid the sequester but if Obama or the Senate will not act then let it happen. Its going to hurt those most who Obummer is always trying to throw money at....

    February 12, 2013 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  13. Dean

    Don't forget brains.

    February 12, 2013 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  14. Winning

    The Rpublican Party sure seems to have mastered how to make all but their hard core base absolutely hate it. The more I see this kind of crap going on, the more entrenched I become in not voting for a single Republican ever again.

    February 12, 2013 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  15. s kel

    wow as useual there are a lot of right wing republican self lying stupidity going on here.

    February 12, 2013 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  16. Chris

    Spend 4 years trying to make him a 1 term president, saying so publically.

    Get mad and accuse him of trying to take over the house for the democrats when it doesn't work.

    Seems legit.

    February 12, 2013 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  17. Larry L

    The next purge of Republican radicals is in 2014. Our country can't work on their "support-the-rich-only" agenda. The hot-button social issues they use to gather fearful, bigoted and intolerant white votes has quit being enough. 2014!

    February 12, 2013 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  18. Vdrummin

    No Guts to kill Medicare fro seniors; raise taxes on the middle class, while the CEO's get there million dollar bonus
    No that's not what the President is all about, It's time we clean up THE HOUSE and get rid of teh Republians
    No more talking the same old garbadge; make Boehner the first to GO....He's a traitor to this country

    February 12, 2013 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  19. Disgusted

    What did we do to deserve Boehner? Agreements can't be negotiated with those who are determined to obstruct and do not intend to negotiate. If he would wash his oily face, maybe he would not have so much a slimy image. Boehner, pls go back to the bar you grew up in.

    February 12, 2013 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  20. Skymanhill

    Boehner has never worked a day in his life.

    February 12, 2013 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  21. RTB

    Obama has shown more guts and courage than the entire Republican party combined.

    February 12, 2013 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  22. Jeff--Former Republican

    His comments might mean something if they were coming from someone who was willing to stand up to the crazies in his own party.

    February 12, 2013 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  23. Republicans; the "Not Intended to be Factually Accurate" Party

    It is amazing that this man is 2nd in line to assume the Presidency if something were to happen to Obama & Biden.

    Doesn`t Boehner realize that, given the political impotence and ineffectiveness he has shown, attacking the President for a lack of "GUTS" only reveals his shortcomings.

    When the President leads, the GOP says he is over reaching his authority or advancing a socialist/marxist/communist agenda. You can`t lead people who refuse to be thinkers, who refuse to be swayed by facts and data. You can not lead people who can reverse their position when wrong or people who won`t compromise. Republican members of Congress

    February 12, 2013 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  24. 111Dave111

    Speaking a lack of 'guts' and 'courage' in 1968, when U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War was at its peak, Boehner enlisted in the United States Navy [instead of being drafted] but was administratively separated after eight weeks because of a bad back. [Wikipedia: John Boehner]

    February 12, 2013 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  25. TM

    Before Speaker Boehner complains about the President's not having the "courage to take on the liberal side of his own party" he should show ONE example when he had the courage to take on the the extremists in the GOP known as the "Tea Party". Actually, I'll save him some time. He CAN'T, because it has NEVER happened. Mr. Speaker, please do us a favor and find your own spine before you go looking for someone else's.

    February 12, 2013 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
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