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. geezer

    This guy Boehner must be a drunk.

    February 12, 2013 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  2. Strangways

    what a vile cretin Boehner is. He didn't have the stones to stand up the the hard right in HIS party. Their stated goal was denying O a second turn. They would rather watch our economy crater than reach across the aisle. Mitch McConnel actually laughed at a budget proposal put forth by Geithner – but no, Republicans "made every effort" to work with the President. They're a pack of Liars and the sooner they are all sent packing back to their mansions, the better. Meanwhile Boehner, light up another cig and hit the tanning salon again.

    February 12, 2013 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  3. ThinkAgain: All of the GOP's policies are PROVEN FAILURES

    This is just yet another ploy by the Repubs to portray themselves as representing a majority of Americans WHEN THE LAST TWO PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS HAVE PROVEN OTHERWISE.

    The folks lacking in guts are the Repubs who refuse to allow our country to move forward. They don't have the guts to admit ALL of their economic, military and foreign policies are PROVEN FAILURES.

    February 12, 2013 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  4. ThinkAgain: All of the GOP's policies are PROVEN FAILURES

    I do wish President Obama would stop trying to create cooperation with these Repub yahoos. They have shown time and again that instead of admitting all of their economic, military and foreign policies are PROVEN FAILURES, they would rather take our country down the tubes.

    February 12, 2013 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  5. Jack

    Mr. Boehner's

    When are you going to learn to zip your lip? And get down to the work you were sent to do?

    You lost the election, you lost seat's in the House and Senate, You luckily were sent back to Washington.

    Now, Shut up!

    Get to work on an energy policy, infrastructure policy, small business reform, tax reform, agricultural reform, medicare and social security reform.

    The president out maneuvered you, so get what you can, quite whining and playing politics with everything. I am a conservative and 65 years old just like you! But you are acting 16 year old.

    You are acting like Limbaugh, Hannity, Meveded and Trump, which are acting like nothing more 16 year old cry babies.

    So, again I say Zip your Lip!!!

    February 12, 2013 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  6. Hillcrester

    Boehner and the GOP will get NOTHING, which is more than they deserve. Obama has painted them into a corner, and they Keep asking for more paint! Laughable!

    February 12, 2013 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  7. Anonymous

    In psychology this is called projecting.

    February 12, 2013 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  8. ThinkAgain: All of the GOP's policies are PROVEN FAILURES

    The will of the people elected President Obama TWICE: What is it, Orangeman, about that that you don't get?

    Yeah, you have a majority in the House – which lost seats and their total votes were fewer than those cast for Democrats. You only won because of redistricting – and now you're trying to further disenfranchise voters by trying to change how Electoral College votes are distributed!

    Take a flying leap, Boehner, and take all your traitorous brethren with you!

    February 12, 2013 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  9. Bossu

    Wow, what a shock?

    February 12, 2013 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  10. CryBabies

    I'm choking on the regurgitated liberal talking points...reminds me of Alices experience down the rabbit hole. You lemmings can follow Mr. Obama...I,ll take tough love to get this country back in shape. Now, talk to the hand.

    February 12, 2013 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  11. ThinkAgain: All of the GOP's policies are PROVEN FAILURES

    This from the man who is so insecure about how he looks that he'd rather turn orange in a tanning bed ... who can't make it longer than 24 hours without a drink ... who is afraid of the monster (tea party) the GOP created ...

    Boehner = Wuss!

    February 12, 2013 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  12. hecep

    "Boehner questioned the president's seriousness about getting something done on immigration." Unbelievable. Obviously, Boehner's words are intended for the nincompoops and sleepwalkers out there. Of the dems and repubs, who are the ones who have been pushing back on reform. The only reason that the repubs are giving even lip-service to the notion now is because of the drubbing they got this last election. Otherwise, it would have been all about building the wall higher.

    February 12, 2013 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  13. jdun

    You really think that privatizing Social security and Medicare are the answers the American public want? That is the only solution I hear from the republicans to the deficit. Get serious about serving the American public instead of the CEO's and you will solve all our problems.

    February 12, 2013 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  14. ready freddy

    Obama is just community organizer in cheif all mouth,noaction most of the world dont like us , now they dont fear us.i voted for him the first time,but twice? I was that low info voter , listening to the driveby media ,graduated to doing my own research and realized they read teleprompters too! PEOPLE ARE HURTING its not getting better all politicians are trying to keep their jobs to avoid obamacare. its a mess hustle or get hustled . Hows that hope and small change going

    February 12, 2013 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  15. GUY

    Whining again! I am beginning to think this is all the man is capable of!

    February 12, 2013 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  16. ThinkAgain: All of the GOP's policies are PROVEN FAILURES

    @Indeigrl: Turn off Fox. Your idea of "compromise" is to implement the GOP's agenda. Newsflash, sister: YOU LOST! Americans voted for President Obama and HIS agenda.

    When are you going to start following the will of the people? The GOP has been obstructing it at every turn! We live in a Democracy – and you whiners need to accept that fact.

    BTW, President Obama's policies took out bin Laden, saved GM and have made for over 34 straights months of private sector job growth. You want to lower the deficit? Then support him in raising taxes on those who can most afford it – folks who've NOT produced all the jobs here in the U.S. they said their lowered taxes would result in.

    Raise taxes on the rich – a majority of Americans and 67% of American millionaires and billionaires WANT IT, TOO.

    February 12, 2013 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  17. Cam Spurgeon

    And this comes frtom a man who has been castrated by his own party. Talk about guts.

    February 12, 2013 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  18. Charlie

    As a strategy, accusing the opposition of the crimes that you are guilty of is getting old in our GOP "leaders."
    . . . But I start to wonder if instead of a strategy these manifestly irrational accusations are based on what these guys actually believe. That . . . would be a very scary thing!

    February 12, 2013 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  19. ready freddy

    I know its hard to post the truth hurts dont it

    February 12, 2013 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  20. East of Eden

    Boehner shouldn't worry. Obama voters don't come out in non presidential years.

    February 12, 2013 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  21. Chuk

    This has got to be a joke! It's like the kettle calling the pot "black". A "grand bargain" could have been had years ago if Boehner had ANY backbone. He tears up and capitulates every time the tea partiers yell at him because he just can't stand up to them. Now he's calling the President gutless? Give me a break! I think he needs a tan.

    February 12, 2013 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  22. ThinkAgain: All of the GOP's policies are PROVEN FAILURES

    @Sniffit: "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."

    The GOP's policies have NOTHING to what is right for our country; only what is right for them. It is owned and controlled by the likes of the Koch brothers, who've manufactured the tea party and use social issues to bring along the evangelicals. (Ever wonder how all those retired folks could afford those luxury tour buses taking them to all of those tea party "grassroots" rallies?)

    Pathetic, simply pathetic.

    February 12, 2013 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  23. mjw

    OMG!!!That is as ignorant as any one human being can be. How he became SOH I cannot understand. I cannot believe he would stand there and lie to the number of reporters. the President negotiated with him but he could not manage the TP side of the GOP. He got burned by his own party, that his why Chris Christie took him on. Was the President in that too?

    This really shows how dishonest they are...the President had a major deal with him which he agreed to but could not get it through his GOP caucus. Ask him what prompt the news about Cantor stabbing him in the back? I am dumbfounded when I see them get in front of the news and just lies like noone is following the news.

    February 12, 2013 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  24. ThinkAgain: All of the GOP's policies are PROVEN FAILURES

    @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."

    Wow, took you a whole 5 letters to notice your caps lock was stuck ...

    More votes were cast for Democratic House candidates than Republican; Repubs only won because of redistricting.

    America wants DEMOCRATS to be in control, not Repubs. Yahoos like you are just getting in the way.

    February 12, 2013 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  25. Romney is Still NOT My Hero

    I'm beginning to think that Mr. Orange Glow is just jealous that Obama has that natural brown skin that he covets. Maybe he should stop drinking his tanning lotion and actually rub some on for a change.

    February 12, 2013 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
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