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. Courtney

    Get over it boehner Mitt Romeny do your freakin job and stop bashing Obama I'm so sick and tired of GOP and their BS.God I can't wait for the Republican Party to become like the Whig party .

    February 12, 2013 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  2. Be Sane

    Anyone who wants to see our country move forward should vote the republican clowns OUT!

    February 12, 2013 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  3. Vic

    This guy is a looser. Bohner just carries the water for the rich, the Tea Baggers, and the NRA. No guts, no backbone, and no interest in making our country better. Just responsds to lobbyist. Totally useless. And we pay for him to back water and say no to everything!!!.

    February 12, 2013 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  4. 111Dave111

    John Boehner attended Cincinnati's Moeller High School ('68) and was a linebacker on the school's football team.

    February 12, 2013 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  5. Sniffit

    As for trying to say Obama needs to get out of the way, that's all just the GOP/Teatrolls trying to manufacture a narrative that let's them attempt to claim they are the ones solely responsible for immigration reform. WaPo poll just showed that if Obama's name is not attached to it, 60% of GOP/Teatrolls support a pathway to citizenship. If Obama's name is attached to it, that drops to 39%. Why? Because they want to take all the credit. Why? Because they think it's their big shot at fixing their demographic armageddon. Why? Because this is all a political game and power struggle to them and they're not truly concerned about immigrants and immigration issues, just holding onto power.

    February 12, 2013 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  6. Texasmike

    IF Boehner is so tough, how about you get your majority to vote for a bill? Oops. So much for the tough guy Republican act...ironic from a guy who cries at a moment's notice.

    February 12, 2013 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  7. Charlie Daniels

    In response to Name WOW

    "In "street " terms he just called the President a Punk!! The thought of how people disrespect him is disgusting. You dont have to agree with someone in order to respect them."

    There lies the problem with you blind sheep using "deserve" as a matter of fact. In no way does anyone deserve respect, you earn it. It is strange how deserve is often used and earn is nonexistent by self righteous libs. I absolutely need to agree with someone's belief system, moral integrity, love for family, god and country, etc.. For BO – zero.

    February 12, 2013 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  8. Anonymous

    Refusing to surrender to what Boehner wants is the opposite of lacking guts and courage.

    February 12, 2013 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  9. NameT-hill says

    It's amazing how Republicans think they are right about everything and no one else has clue....I wish they would get one

    February 12, 2013 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  10. MarkinFL

    The sequester had massive Republican support when they thought they could use it to their advantage. Now that they see that it is a downside for them no matter what happens they are trying to distance themselves from their own unholy offspring.
    Now that Obama is showing some backbone they are freaking out because he is forcing them to have to deal with their own extremists. The money behind the Republicans do not want the sequester to happen. But the Tea Party is fighting mad about any spending. That leaves Boehner between a rock and a bunch of hard heads.

    February 12, 2013 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  11. Sniffit

    Captain Orangeglow's inability to control/confront the radicalized Teatroll wing of the GOP and his obedience to the ridiculous GOP/Teatroll rule that no bill can be brought to a vote when in control of the House unless it already has a majority of the House in support of it solely via GOP votes. This is the playground politics of "I know you are but what am I?"...i.e., projection.

    He is the coward. He's also apparently not smart enough to recognize the irony of how his attempt to project that onto Obama merely highlights his own cowardice and weakness.

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

    Democrats and Republicans, well nearly all politicians in genera, are the same today. Republicans are just "democrat lite."

    February 12, 2013 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  13. SGT J

    He has the guts and courage to stand up to you, Boehner. That's all we ask and that's all we need, you obstructionist.

    February 12, 2013 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  14. Sniffit

    Boehner: can't control or confront the Teatrolls and obeys the Hastert Rule like a lapdog.

    This is playground politics..."I know you are but what am I?"...projection...and all it does, ironically, is highlight that Boehner is really the one who is a coward and weak.

    February 12, 2013 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  15. Sniffit

    Hastert Rule

    February 12, 2013 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  16. PJ

    Boehner got burned all right, by his own party on his "Plan B".
    Is scared of Eric Cantor;
    Is scared of the Tea Party;
    Is scared of his own shadow;
    Won't attend State Dinners;
    Walks out of meetings with the President, then whines;
    Yep, he is no "Profile in Courage" You can tell by the company he keeps --- Jack Daniels and Kleenex.

    February 12, 2013 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  17. scarf

    Was he crying when he complained of Obama's lack of courage?

    February 12, 2013 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  18. Georgia

    A bit odd coming from a man who either can't or won't exert much control over his caucus.

    February 12, 2013 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  19. sCOTT

    OBama really has no choice he needs to come around to the Republicans way of thinking. The people decided that one branch needs to remain Republican to stop the President and Democrats from destroying this country. So far the only budget passed was by the HOuse, where is the Senate and President's budget. Obama is all ready late for this year he was suspose to have one out last week. If this country goes to the dogs the blame can clearly be laid at Obama feet along with left wing radicals.

    February 12, 2013 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  20. 111Dave111

    John Boehner attended Cincinnati's Moeller High School, he graduated in 1968, and was a linebacker on the school's football team. [Wikipedia: John Boehner]

    February 12, 2013 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  21. NickAnast

    "I think he'd love to have Nancy Pelosi as speaker and Harry Reid as majority leader for his last two years in office."

    Well, DUH!!!! It would be a refreshing change to once again have a Speaker of the House who is respected by her own caucus and actually gets things done.

    February 12, 2013 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  22. John

    Boehner should have taken the deal the President offered last fall regarding sequester. He decided to turn his back and take a vote on his own proposal which he lost. And Obama got a straight tax hike with no spending cuts out of it.

    Guess what, Obama beat Boehner and won that tax hike. That one is over, and Boehner needs to quit saying that Obama already got his revenue - because that is in the past. And nothing from the past counts towards the next deal.

    Reality is Obama is far more willing to make the grand bargain than Boehner is. And Boehner will keep losing ground incrementally until he is willing to step up and make that bargain, because nothing passed by the House Republicans alone has a chance in the Senate or the WhiteHouse.

    February 12, 2013 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  23. lolo

    These Republicans have a lot of nerve. They are the idiots who need guts and courage. Wake up America and votes these nuts out period.

    February 12, 2013 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  24. Tim

    The President can point to a long list of accomplishments during a very difficult time in our history and has achieved these despite the constant obstruction of Republicans like John Boehner. The Speaker has a historically poor record as Speaker of the House.

    February 12, 2013 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  25. edzepp

    What an arrogant jerk.
    This is from the guy who lacks the balls to stand up to the certified nutjobs in his caucus...who slithered away from a deal in 2011 that would have saved the county from this ongoing series of fiscal crises. He'd rather extend the agony for purely political purposes than actually accomplish anything constructive for the good of the country.
    Yeah, Boehner wants foreplay all that the majority of Americans don't realize how he wants to screw them

    February 12, 2013 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
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