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. us_1776

    Boehner, still on the elementary school playground with his name-calling.

    When will the GOP ever grow up?


    February 12, 2013 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  2. jake

    Obama is doing exactly what needs to be done and that is take control of the house from these nazi republicans....Obama wan the election in a landslide and the rebu house still sits at 8% approval....its only a matter of time and Obama will have the house back and the teabaggin repubes will be sent packing...asta la vista boehner

    February 12, 2013 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  3. Phyllis Gwendoline Williams

    "Everyone of us shall give account of himself to God" (Romans 14: 12)"Look unto Me, and be ye saved all the ends of the earth, for I Am God...unto Me every knee shall bow" (Isaiah 45: 23) "every tongue ...confess that Jesus Christ is Lord" (Philippians 2: 9-11)

    February 12, 2013 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  4. larry simpson

    hopefully we can get rid of the terrorist democrats tearing our country apart

    February 12, 2013 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  5. Hillcrester

    Boehner is desperate. In stating he thinks Obama is aiming for control of the House, the chowderhead is admitting that Obama is proposing what voters want. Far from the issue being Obama's "control" of Dem liberals, Boehner can't agree to a deal because he fears the ultra-extremists in his own party. Everything he is reported to have said is just smokescreen lies.

    February 12, 2013 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  6. dictator

    Obama is muslim brotherhood and new world order is coming. Its not hard to see the truth if u look

    February 12, 2013 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  7. rs

    Bithers, Palin, Akin, the Sequester, cut-taxes-and-spend,G.W. Bush,TEA Party, etc...

    If that is what Republicans consider "leadership", then no, Mr. Obama is not like that.

    February 12, 2013 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  8. Julia

    Bonehead lacks brains, he is such a racist he should run for pres of the aryan nations nutgang

    February 12, 2013 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  9. Woman In California

    @ Indeigrl

    The president has offered the republicans much more than they deserve, and he doesn't have to do much to insult them as you suggest, they do a pretty good job of that all by themselves. As far as the debates are concerned – maybe your party has learned not to send a robot with unAmerican interests to represent them in the future (if there is one for your party). Like it or not, President Obama's legacy will be a good one without the help of "your kind", so sit back and enjoy the next four years as this country finally represents ALL Americans and not just one group of a specific type.

    February 12, 2013 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  10. frespech

    Boehner talking about guts and courage is akin to Palin speaking about geography and reporting.

    February 12, 2013 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  11. asm_ith

    For someone who has repeatedly shown that he can't make a deal with Obama that he can get his caucus to support, it's interesting for Boehner to accuse the President of lacking guts. I suppose what Boehner means is that Obama doesn't have the guts to make the cuts of giving in 100% to what the Republicans want. Boehner doesn't have the guts to bring forward the compromises and grand bargains that he made with the President, because he lacks the control of his caucus who care more about their ideology than the country.

    February 12, 2013 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  12. 60minuteman

    Boehner looks in the mirror each morning, crafts a statement accusing Obama of his own short-comings. A double shot of booze and a couple of cigarettes and he is ready for the day.

    February 12, 2013 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  13. frespech

    John, the solution is for the Obstructionist Congress to get out of the way. The issue is they will not.

    February 12, 2013 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  14. Fran

    "Guts and courage?" This from a man who cries at the drop of a hat! "Foreplay?" I didn't know Tea-Republicans even knew what that is.

    February 12, 2013 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  15. Pete Schatz

    On the sequester, check your history. That was the republican brilliant move. Per Boehner, "I got 98% of what I asked for, I'm a pretty happy guy"

    February 12, 2013 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  16. HarvTy

    Obama is doing nothing except throwing sand around the sand box. He has done nothing to build consensus around sound policy and get this country on track. He develops his liberal, half-cooked plans behind closed doors than stomps around like a petulant child and blames the other party because they didn't do everything he wanted when he wanted it. The "other party" is the only thing standing in his way of completely gutting capitalism and inserting the state into all areas of American life.

    February 12, 2013 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  17. Rev. D.C. Kaye of Norwalk Ohio

    Obamunism is ordained by God to lead us into a right relationship with The Father . Collective imperative to reduce carbon in the atmosphear , give refuge for the weak and the weary , make sure people have food and a cell phone , and place to live . Obama is a gift from God to those of whom God loves , and a thorn to those who thwart God's will for America .

    February 12, 2013 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  18. irene

    Does anybody care what Boehner has to say? He is completely irrelevant and out of touch.

    February 12, 2013 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  19. hecep

    Yet again, we have a republican who feels safe in using the harshest, most abusive language for a president, knowing that there's a segment of the population that will give that a pass (in fact, revel in it) because its target is an African-American one. At this rate, all that the repubs can count on is the racist vote.

    February 12, 2013 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  20. Cody

    I guess I will agree with Boehner for once. Obama has lacked the guts to tell the Republican party to screw-off. He kept trying to compromise with them, and they kept back-pedaling or reneging on their deals.

    Hopefully this new term will bring a President Obama that will actually press for a liberal agenda, to remind the US of what liberals ACTUALLY stand for. Not what moderate Republicans do.

    I'm not optimist of this though.

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

    Boehner is the one who doesn't get it. If he would refrain from being so negative, vitriolic and dis-respectful, and make a real effort to work WITH President Obama instead of against him, he would be pleasantly surprised at how much could get done.

    February 12, 2013 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  22. Rev. D.C. Kaye of Norwalk Ohio

    Obama is the right man for the right time . God loves Obama for caring for his children . Jesus would be pleased .

    February 12, 2013 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  23. Ken

    This guy needs a mirror.

    February 12, 2013 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  24. ken

    The heading was hilarious. Boehner calls for foreplay. hahaha

    February 12, 2013 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  25. hecep

    Outrageous! A president who actually wants to see his party in control of both houses of congress. How often does that happen!

    February 12, 2013 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
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