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. Anonymous

    rather than "foreplay" Jonh why don't you just fast forward to the end and keep sucking on those cigs so we don't have to listen to you much longer

    February 12, 2013 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  2. Charlie Daniels

    Wow – a race card. White or black, still a failure.

    February 12, 2013 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |

    Boehner go away already you have nothing new to say and nothing new to do, you do not have time to work or bring your chamber in order, because all your time is spent is the Tanning Salon, so how do you know what the President lacks or not, go away see how much you are going to earn from Grover Norquest for being his puppet.

    February 12, 2013 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  4. Boo

    And then this m o r o n wonders why Obama doesn't want to work with him....

    February 12, 2013 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  5. MrBeenThere

    Since when does the Winner have to Compromise with the LOSERS.............. I seem to remember there was a election and you LOST................... LOSER........... now you compromise.

    February 12, 2013 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  6. Wilson


    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
    the republican party came from the whig party in lincoln's time. Lincoln started out as a Whig.

    February 12, 2013 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  7. Ferret out the BS

    Boehner needs to stop whining and do his job, put together a bill, send it to the senate, compromise, make the changes, send it back, then on to the president for acceptance or veto. How tough is that? Or I suppose Boehner could go cry on the presidents shoulder.

    February 12, 2013 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  8. JR

    John Boehner.......another idiot we need to stop paying

    February 12, 2013 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  9. Publius Novus

    When will the Orange Man acquire the guts and courage to stand up to the Tea Patsies and neo-cons?

    February 12, 2013 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  10. penguin

    The new definition of "gutless"- if you don't go along with the Republicans you lack leadership and are gutless. Obama has offered cuts (including changing the way Social Security's COLA is calculated) to go along with closing tax loopholes (which results in increased revenue). The Republicans propose massive cuts to programs helping the unemployed and underemployed. We should do away with most loopholes (We especially need to do away with the charitable contribution deduction)

    February 12, 2013 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  11. waheid

    Thanks to people like Boehner, the day is fast approaching when the Republican party ceases to be a significant factor in American politics. The Republican party seems to be hell-bent on destroying itself and their so-called leaders - like Boehner - are leading them over the cliff, smiling all the way. Drink the Kool Aid, folks; it's what all conservatives drink.

    February 12, 2013 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  12. Wilson

    "The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt. People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance." –Roman philosopher and statesman Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-46 BC)
    America is going the same way as the Roman empire, and for the same reasons. At least the Romans had 1000 years or so. The way we are going America won't make it to 300.

    February 12, 2013 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  13. RINO Bill

    I would like to see John Boehner grow a pair and (1) take away all existing subsidies to the oil companies; (2) provide tax reducing incentives to businesses who bring back jobs to the United States; (3) increase corporate taxes on those companies that ship American jobs overseas; and (4) eliminate existing tax breaks for companies that own corporate jets.

    Not gonna happen though.

    February 12, 2013 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  14. Carolyn Franklin

    You must realize that he had more than enough courage and guts to withstand every trick in the book to make him a one-term president...He had enough presence of mind to know that you could not bring your house in order and deliver anything other than anarchy John. Try to not cry too much when you are ignored out of office.

    February 12, 2013 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  15. much thunder.little rain

    sticking your head in the sand is no way to govern....and pandering to far left is no better either...

    February 12, 2013 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  16. bermille

    It's called listening to what the American people want, Boehner, but you don't listen to what Americans want.

    February 12, 2013 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  17. The Real Tom Paine



    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
    the republican party came from the whig party in lincoln's time. Lincoln started out as a Whig.
    And he watched it collapse, due in part to a lack of a national appeal, as well as a lack of a coherent message: sounds like history repeating itself with your lot all over again.

    February 12, 2013 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  18. Lynda/Minnesota

    "Yep, he is no "Profile in Courage" You can tell by the company he keeps - Jack Daniels and Kleenex."

    Cheers .... !

    February 12, 2013 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  19. The Real Tom Paine

    " I've gotten burned." Sounds like the Weeper is blaming other people other than the ones he should, namely the caucus he can't control. I've never seen a Sleaker so incapable of disciplining his caucus as this fool. If his caucus keeps churning out bills stuffed with riders on personhood, we can never expect the economy to be dealt with except through Senate action.

    February 12, 2013 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  20. Matthew

    The president lacks guts? This coming from the guy that lacks a seal to his tear ducts.

    February 12, 2013 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  21. NorCalMojo

    Boehner and the GOP leadership are partly responsible. He's not exactly a study in courage himself. He's caved time after time. Bottom line, the looney left he's referring to have more morale courage than the GOP leadership.

    It's sad fact that Pelosi has more balls than the entire GOP caucus in the Senate.

    February 12, 2013 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  22. Doyle Wiley, MI

    Boehner, go sit in the corner somewhere and have a good cry.

    February 12, 2013 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  23. Scout

    Around the world, Republican women are asking, "What is foreplay"?

    February 12, 2013 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  24. ritmocojo

    The Tan Man is soo anti anything Obama says that if Obama gave him a stick to defend himself with, he'd beat himself with it just to spite him.

    February 12, 2013 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  25. 66Biker

    If there was ever someone in a high ranking government position that CLEARLY needed to be shown what kind of power the President of the United States has, it's John Boehner. What a disgrace.

    February 12, 2013 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
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