September 23rd, 2010
02:08 PM ET
12 years ago

EXCLUSIVE: John Boehner talks with Dana Bash

Sterling, Virginia (CNN) - House Republican Leader John Boehner suggested Thursday the Republicans' pledge to extend all Bush-era tax cuts is crucial to fixing the economy, even if it adds an estimated $4 trillion dollars to the deficit.

"You can't solve the deficit problem until you get your arms around spending and have a healthy economy. And you can't have a healthy economy if you raise taxes on the American people," the Ohio congressman told CNN in an exclusive interview.

Read the interview transcript, after the jump:

Speaking minutes after House Republicans unveiled their so-called "Pledge for America" agenda for governing, Boehner declined to give many specifics on how Republicans would fulfill their promise to reduce federal spending back to 2008 levels.

"It's not rocket science. Let's start with all of the TARP funds. Let's get the TARP money back and use it to pay down our debt. Let's bring all the unspent stimulus money back. You know, the stimulus was supposed to create jobs in America and it hasn't," said Boehner.

When pressed for examples of other cuts he would make, he repeated his call to return unspent stimulus and bailout funds to the federal treasury.

"There's $700 billion right there, " he said.

House Republicans are making clear that one of the key goals of their new agenda is to try to change the way Washington works, and is perceived.

A Democratic mantra is that Boehner is too cozy with Washington lobbyists. Boehner was unapologetic.

"I talk to everybody. You know, I'm one of the most open, transparent members of - of Congress. I have conversations with people who lobby me in my district, every place I go in the country. And, yes, there are some lobbyists in DC, believe it or not," he said.

"I'm a small business guy who stumbled into this political arena. And when people talk about my relationship with the business community, I'm sorry, I am the business community. That's who I am - the - the heart and soul of me. And when I see government, like I did as a small employer, choke the goose that's laying the golden egg, that's what drove me here, to fight for a government that allows the American people and the private sector to be the - the engine of opportunity for all Americans," said Boehner.

So no restrictions on lobbyists? It's going to stay the same?

"Look, we've got a lot of things that we've got to deal with over the next few months. We'll deal with them as they come up," Boehner responded.

The White House has increasingly personalized its opposition to Republicans in recent weeks by singling out Boehner.

Even before that, he did not have much of a relationship with the President.

But Boehner predicted that may change soon.

"We're not especially close. But I suspect, in the coming months, we're going to have an opportunity to get a lot closer," he said.

Boehner, who helped craft the House Republicans 1994 Contract With America, called the agenda unveiled now "certainly more substantive than what was in the Contract with America 16 years ago."

One of the promises in House Republicans' new "Pledge to America" is to allow any lawmaker to call for a vote on any amendment to cut spending.

Does that mean he would allow votes on controversial proposals some Republicans are campaigning on, like cutting the Department of Education?

"If members want to offer amendments, why shouldn't they be able to?" Boehner said. "let's let the House work its will...all of us can defend our votes."

The Ohio Republican would not entertain the idea being floated by some of his colleagues that Republicans should be prepared to shut down the government in order to hold the line on spending.

But what if Republicans are successful in cutting spending and the President uses his veto pen? If Republicans are not willing to shut down the government, will they just cave?

Boehner would not answer that question, saying "I'm not going to get into what ifs. I'm hopeful that the President will sign it. You know, I was a born optimist."

And on the question of whether he thinks he will become Speaker of the House after November's elections?

"That's our goal. We've got a long way to go, but that is our goal. And if we're successful in getting back the majority, we will fight for a smaller, less costly and more accountable government."

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Mr. Boehner, you have said that you want to make all of the tax cuts permanent. And the Treasury, this would actually add $3.9 trillion of deficit. It would
take that money away from the Treasury.

So, how would you deal with that?

How would you replenish the Treasury?

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MINORITY LEADER: I think keeping tax rates at their current levels and making it permanent eliminates a lot of the uncertainty that's preventing small businesses from reinvesting in their business and hiring more employees. And you can't solve the deficit problem until you get your arms around spending and have a healthy economy. And you can't have a healthy economy if you raise taxes on the American people.

BASH: So the fact that it would add nearly $4 trillion to the deficit, you'll worry about that later?

BOEHNER: I just think that we've got to have a healthy economy, where more people are working, more people are caring for themselves, their family and paying taxes if we're serious about getting America in a stronger position.

BASH: Now, you also say that you want to reduce spending levels back to 2008. That's hundreds of billions of dollars.

BOEHNER: It's $100 billion in the first year. And - and it - if you look at it, we're talking about levels that many of us thought were too high then. And it's before the stimulus, before the bailouts and before all the nonsense.

BASH: How do you recoup that money?

Can you be specific?

What in the government - what programs, what agencies - are you going to cut to get back to those levels.

BOEHNER: Well, it's not rocket science. Let's start with all of the TARP funds. Let's get the TARP money back and use it to pay down our debt. Let's bring all the unspent stimulus money back. You know, the stimulus was supposed to create jobs in America and it hasn't. It was supposed to keep unemployment low and it hasn't. Let's take all the unspent stimulus money, bring it back to the Treasury and help pay down the debt.

There are - we've outlined $1.3 trillion worth of specific spending cuts where we can really get our arms around the out of control spending that's going on in Washington right now.

BASH: but, for example, I mean you're talking about unspent money but there is money that has been spent. And, you know, look, you talk about the rebellion out there, part of what those rebellious voters want to know is they want you to be specific, because, as you probably know - as you know, they maybe aren't that enamored of the Democrats, but they don't trust you, as the Republican machine.

BOEHNER: That's why we've outlined clearly in our pledge what we would and would not do. And I think when it comes to spending, we've been very specific about common sense steps that we can do to get government...

BASH: Give me one example.

BOEHNER: How about the unspent stimulus money? Let's stop it. Let's stop it and bring it back.

How about all the TARP funds?

No more bailouts. And no more using this money for unintended purposes. There's $700 billion right there.

BASH: Just literally outside the gates of - of where we are right now, there was a voter. He said he was Independent. He's actually registered in Florida. He says he wants to support the Republicans but he actually took the time and he read your pledge online.

And he said to me, where's the beef?

I don't - I don't see specifics, I'm not convinced. I don't think that they're ready.

BOEHNER: I think if you look at our pledge, it's certainly more substantive than what was in the Contract with America 16 years ago. And if you go through the entire pledge, there are - there are specifics that don't stop, from getting rid of the 1099s that are going to cost businesses $17 billion to comply with. And then, the IRS is going to spend $10 billion having to store all of these. There's $27 billion of waste on our economy that ought to go.

BASH: One of the things that you say that you want to do is allow any member, Democrat or Republican, to call for a vote on cutting spending. You won't stop any of - any of those requests.

So let's say somebody comes up and says, I want to have a vote to eliminate the Department of Education.

Are you willing to do that?

BOEHNER: Listen, I just think it's time for us to fix the - the - the institution of the Congress. It's broken. The American people know it's broken. The members know it's broken. Today, about five people get to decide what the outcome of the bill is going to be when there are 435 of us in the House. And I've always believed that we should have no fear in allowing the House to work its will. And I, frankly, want to give the opportunity to all 435 members to truly represent their constituents...

BASH: So...

BOEHNER: - each of represents 650,000 people...

BASH: So is that a yes? If somebody says let’s eliminate…

BOEHNER: If members want to offer amendments, why shouldn't they be able to?

Let's let the House work its will.

BASH: No matter what kind of position it puts some of your other members in?

BOEHNER: It's - all of us can defend our votes.

BASH: Some of your colleagues have said, you know what, if it comes - comes to it, we'll shut down the government, if that's what we have to do to hold the line on spending.

Would you go that far?

BOEHNER: Our goal is to fight for a smaller, less costly and more accountable government here in Washington, DC. It's not to shut down the government.

BASH: But - let's just play this out. You're successful...

BOEHNER: Let's not get into all these...

BASH: No...

BOEHNER: - what ifs.

BASH: - but this is serious. If you're - because what people out there are saying is we want you to prove that you really mean it this time. So if you're successful in cutting spending and the president is not happy with what you passed, he vetoes it.

Does that mean if you're not willing to shut the government, are you going to cave?

BOEHNER: We want a smaller, less costly and more accountable government in Washington and we're pledging to the American people that we will fight for that goal.

BASH: So you're not going to answer about whether or not you'll...

BOEHNER: I'm not going to get into...

BASH: - what will happen?

BOEHNER: - what ifs. I'm hopeful that the president will sign it. You know, I was a born optimist.

BASH: One other question. Democrats, as you know, are saying that you are way too cozy with lobbyists. They say that a Speaker Boehner would mean an open door policy for big money, corporate lobbyists, other - other lobbyists to come in.

What would you do to reassure people out there who say, well, that's just Washington, that that won't happen?

BOEHNER: I...

BASH: Will you open up your scheduling?

BOEHNER: I talk to everybody. You know, I'm one of the most open, transparent members of - of Congress. I have conversations with people who lobby me in my district, every place I go in the country. And, yes, there are some lobbyists in DC, believe it or not.

But at the end of the day, we all ought to be judged on how we vote. I - you know, I don't do earmarks. I don't do special interest favors. It’s just not who I am. But I - you know, I - I'm a small business guy
who stumbled into this political arena. And when people talk about my relationship with the business community, I'm sorry, I am the business community. That's who I am - the - the heart and soul of me. And when I see government, like I did as a small employer, choke the goose that's laying the golden egg, that's what drove me here, to fight for a government that allows the American people and the private sector to be the - the engine of opportunity for all Americans.

BASH: You say that you will be judged on how you vote, but a lot of what you're trying to do is change the perception in Washington. That's a lot of what you lay out...

BOEHNER: What the American people...

BASH: - so if - so how do you...

BOEHNER: - what the American people...

BASH: - how do you change the perception of...

BOEHNER: - they want results. They want the spending under control. You know, they want the uncertainty to go away. And they want us to do our best to make sure that the future for our kids and grandkids is as bright as it was for us.

BASH: So no restrictions on lobbyists? It’s going to stay the same?

BOEHNER: Look, we've got a lot of things that we've got to deal with over the next few months. We'll deal with them as they come up.

BASH: One last question. It is not a state secret that you and the president don't exactly have a warm and fuzzy relationship.

If you were to achieve your goals and if you were to become the next speaker of the House, how would you - how do you work with him? Maybe a golf summit, something like that?

BOEHNER: Now, listen, I like the president. I mean we get along personally.

Now, we disagree. But, yes, we're not especially close. But I suspect, in the coming months, we're going to have an opportunity to get a lot closer.

BASH: Are you going to be the speaker of the House?

BOEHNER: That's our goal. We've got a long way to go, but that is our goal. And if we're successful in getting back the majority, we will fight for a smaller, less costly and more accountable government.

BASH: Forty days out, the way you see it now, are you going to achieve that goal?

BOEHNER: We've got a lot of work to do yet

BASH: No promises.

All right, thank you very much.

BOEHNER: Thank you.

BASH: Thank you, Mr. Leader.






Filed under: John Boehner
soundoff (57 Responses)
  1. Jimbo (the real one)

    All I see in the background of this "Pledge to America" group are pasty white faces (except for one very tanned one). Couldn't you find at least one minority that supports your positions...? I didn't think so...

    September 23, 2010 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  2. WinchLk

    ATTN: GOP;

    Drop the social conservatism and stick to fiscal conservatism. If you were actually as pro-constitution and pro-individual rights as you claim, you'd follow a more socially liberal or moderate, libertarian ideology. If only there were more Republicans like Ron Paul in there that would cut the defense budgets, then we might see some real reform come to Washington. As it stands all they are doing is pushing moderates away with the heavy defense spending and pushing of strong social conservatism.

    September 23, 2010 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  3. LacrosseMom(the real one)

    Notice that Boehner, does not give SPECIFICS. Today, on CNBC's morning show, they showed a clip from the brilliant Warren Buffet, who reminded Americans that the government is taking in....... ONLY 15% in taxes. And he says, we all need to pay our fair share.

    BTW I am one of those whose taxes will go up when the Bush Tax Cuts end; my husband and I are in the 1%........ and we are willing to pay our share.

    The GOP-baggers, like to mislead and lie to America, about taxes! FACT IS that 47% of Americans pay NO taxes!

    Wake UP America....... do YOU REALLY.......want to put the GOP who derailed our economy ........ only 2 years ago........ back in power????????????

    September 23, 2010 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  4. Indie Woman in Denver

    Yeah, Mr Boehner, it's not rocket ience, let's stop with the earmarks, and y'all should stop with those regardless of who wins in Nov.

    September 23, 2010 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  5. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    What, no more placing your hand on the Bible when elected and swearing to work for the American people? What, no more "Pledging Allegiance" to the American Flag? This is no more than a "Pledge to the Republican Party", you know, like Hitler. Read it, there is nothing in it specifying how the Republicans "pledge" to do anything.

    September 23, 2010 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  6. vic, Nashville TN

    His answer not convincing to vote for republicans

    September 23, 2010 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  7. True Conservative

    Tea Partiers pledge to return America to the good old days. No government handouts. No Social Security, unemployment for lazy welfare queens or medicare for "autism". You Obozo supporters, libtards and RINOs will lose in November.
    We will get power and you can't do anything about it. LOL

    September 23, 2010 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  8. SayWhat

    "Speaking minutes after House Republicans unveiled their so-called "Pledge for America" agenda for governing, Boehner declined to give many specifics on how Republicans would fulfill their promise to reduce federal spending back to 2008 levels."

    He could give no more specifics because the GOP has no specifics. All they have is a publicity stunt with a lot of happy talk and when you boil it down, they are advocating "voodoo economics". They have no plan to create jobs in an economy that has exported too many manufacuting jobs oveseas and they refuse to deal with the deficit by taking a hard look at our bloated defense budget (how about those 90k bonuses for troops to re-up for the wars that most Americans do not want to fight) or increase revenues by taxes. Get out your magic wand, Jimbo. The GOP snake oil salesmen are at it again. Let's call them on it.

    September 23, 2010 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  9. Limbaugh is a liberal

    Translation of GOP pledge: let's return to thegood old days of the Bush years and let's reinstitute all the Bush policies. Yeah, I'm sure we all want to do that because that turned out so well...

    September 23, 2010 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  10. Peter E

    First of all, a large part of the deficit IS the Bush tax cuts. Second, we've had tax cut after tax cut for the past several decades and yet the economy continues to have recession after recession. There is just no data supporting the myth that tax cuts create jobs. In fact, the only thing tax cuts did was increase deficit and make rich people richer. And yet the ever growing wealth of the rich people has not been used to create jobs. Tax cuts are useless! They don't work, and no data ever showed that they work!

    September 23, 2010 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  11. Caleb

    Oh yeah, its not rocket science huh ? How does he propose to pay down the debt we are still accruing from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars with a complete across the board tax cut. This is also not rocket science.

    September 23, 2010 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  12. T'SAH from Virginia

    I don't believe anything the RepubliCAN'Ts are saying when it comes to 'extending' the taxt cuts and how it will HELP small businesses if they do!!

    After I got an ear full of what represents a SMALL BUSINESS in the RepubliCAN'T's eyes, there are hundred of thousands of businesses out there that is filing as a small business and they are making Millions and Billions of dollars. This is the main reason why the RepubliCAN'Ts – including Boehner – is stressing that a lot of SMALL BUSINESSES will get HURT if the tax cuts EXPIRE.

    They are LYING and they are ONLY in the interest of BIG CORPs – more in line with BIG CORPs filing under SMALL BUSINESS licenses!!!

    DEMOCRATS – UNITE and don't let the Republicans get away with this. They are making PROMISES to the American people they know they cannot keep!! PLEASE get EXCITED now and STOP them or the majority of Americans will suffer the consequences!!!

    T"SAH from Virginia and I approve this message!!

    September 23, 2010 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  13. Dean

    It is not tax cuts that add an estimated $4 trillion dollars to the deficit, it is the out of control spending of the government. Illrgal aliens cost us $350 billion a year. Military bases in foreign lands(not the costs of war) who don't like us cost us about $130 billion a year. We have given $1.276 billion to North Korea over the past 12 years and no one knows how much to our other "friends" who hate us. We give the dairy industry and farmers billions not to grow products which raises the prices on foods we buy.
    Keep taxes where they are and let the government cut out foolish spending the way you and I have to do.

    September 23, 2010 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  14. Vic of New York

    I love this con-artist! He keeps talinng about "small business" as thou he were really trying to help the mom and pop deli down the street. In fact, what this serpent at the Garden of Eden is offering is tax breaks to the likes of the "Koch Brothers" – net worth, $21.5 Billion and behind the scene funding patrons of the TEA Party (Totalitarians for Euthenizing America)! This snake slipped his tongue, yet again, in an intgerview with Bob Schiffer recently. When confronted withi the statistic that only 3% of "small businesses" would not get a tax break – the dope bespoke himself by indicating "that 3% accounts for 40% of small businsess revenue!". For the nieve and Conservative "beleivers" who still don't get it what Boenher was referring to are Chapter-S coporations line Betchel ($67 Billion revenue) that "technically" are listed as small business by the IRS because they pass-through revenue to private holders! You Conservative mutants who due to your genetic defect (Science has proven the Conservative orientation – like being gay – is a genetic disposition) blindly follow your leaders like the BORG drones you are, will never understand how seriously you are being had by your leaders. This guy is not only a clown, he is a decitful disgrace to huminity.

    September 23, 2010 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  15. Thea2b

    LOL the former Syracuse mascot refusing to talk about lobbyist reform, the single largest reason the country is in the state we are now is because or elected leaders are bought and paid for by lobbyists. but if it means giving up those golf trips for the orange man, oh pooh pooh lets not talk about that Dana, be a good media rumpswab and let me get away with not asking questions and let me parrot my talking points. ABSOLUTELY DISGUSTING!!

    September 23, 2010 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  16. Chris

    I would surely have to compare myself to that Independent voter Dana spoke of. Where is the beef? Were is the fundamental change in Congressional practices? Al though I will be voting for Republicans, more often then not, this November, I am afraid the extent of hope I should have for them should not exceed the very basic needs most of us Independents have: a reversal of liberal written Obama-approved policies. That seems like the only good most of us moderates should expect from the Republicans, which is shameful because there is so much more, in this perilous time, that needs to be done in addition to merely enacting the reversal of Obamas terror.

    September 23, 2010 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  17. Pete

    As a long time viewer of CNBC, going back to the Kudlow and Cramer days I found it very difficult to watch CNBC shortly after Obama won the election due to all the open love fest for Obama.
    Many credit Rick Santelli's "Mr Obama are you listening" rant on CNBC as the birth of the TEA PARTY. I watched a gradual change in the commentary on CNBC. Many were PC in their criticism with technical criticism such as 'policy uncertainty has the market nervous". This morning Jack Welch just LAID INTO Obama on nearly EVERY LEVEL......remember folks this is not FOX business channel.........this is CNBC!!!!!!!

    The market looks out six months and TANKED in the summer of 08 as the business prepared for the increasing likely hood a free spending Pelosi Congress, kept SOMEWHAT in check by Bush's veto pen, would be turned loose and teamed up with an anti-business, pro-union, socialist spendaholic like Obama and THEY BAILED!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    The market tanked and unemployment went up in LOCKSTEP with Obama's rise in the polls.
    Today we are seeing the reverse as the stock market rises in anticipation of the end of single party rule.

    September 23, 2010 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  18. tony leyton

    Lower taxes make no difference to regular Americans, if at the same time the Ruling Party deregulates big business and consumer prices for all products and services go sky-high (again). In fact they lose out terribly. Just look at deregulated health care, credit cards, phones, electricity, oil and gas, mortgage interest rates. The list for bankrupting the Average Joe just goes on and on......

    September 23, 2010 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  19. GL

    The only thing the offer is too repeal everything Prsident Obama and the Dems proposaled. They still have not took the American people what is your plan other then repealing the Dems plan. They have to tell the American people when they repeal Obama plan we will us this plan. Dana Bash you did a good job trying to get information from the PARTY OF REPEAL! You you don't have something to replace with you want to repeal, they you should not repeal. Any plan is better then no plan and the Republicans DO NOT HAVE A PLAN other then going back wards.

    September 23, 2010 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  20. John Lane

    So – according to Boehner, we have to leave intact the Bush-era tax cuts for billionaires, but repeal the healthcare bill so that Americans dying for lack of medical care, because their insurance ran out or doesn't cover them, will continue to die.

    September 23, 2010 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  21. gary sharon

    this new contract to America is a joke , all the republicans are running around chasing the tea party that they invented and now it has reared the ugly head of hate and racist bigotry , so the best thing the republicans can do is for every one of the candidates that lost in the primaries to a party republican . is to have people do a write in for the looser to take votes away from the tea party person . and put out the fire they started . and then wait until 2012 to reinvent themselves as Conservatives . of days gone by by .. if not then America is in trouble . we will end up with a revolution much like the north and the south fighting over rights of every American . and those who want religious freedoms . . so beware people don't cry wolf when these Waco's get voted into office . they don't have a clue what they really want other than take back power of the government but that already happened when we voted Obama into office and ousted the republican war machine ..

    September 23, 2010 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  22. CH

    Bush era policy, including these tax cuts, are what got us here today. The rest of us understand that you, and your $250,000+ a year colleagues, want to grow your stockpiles larger. It will take us a decade at least to recover from the damage done to our economy by the Bush Administration. When is your seat up for a vote?

    September 23, 2010 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  23. truthman

    We need change badly! That's all I can say.

    September 23, 2010 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  24. Anonymous

    Is there a connection to the Stimulus spending on "infrastructure improvements" and illegal aliens? I'm guessing that a lot of laborers in the construction business are 'undocumented transient workers."

    September 23, 2010 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  25. Jerry in NC

    Just political double talking, no specific viable solutions. All that comes out of Bonehead's mouth is garbage to incite the conservative republican base. His only objective is to become Speaker, not to actually solve the problems of this country.

    September 23, 2010 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
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