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. ufadoof

    This is the last guy in the world that wants to truly help small businesses. He is not in Washington to "get spending under control". He's in Washington working to get his party back in control. This has nothing to do with "the American people" and everything to do with party first politics.

    September 23, 2010 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  2. Angela Savage Austin

    FACISM....FACING THE FACT....BIGOTS ARE RUINING OUR COUNTRY!!!
    .by Angela Savage Austin on Thursday, September 23, 2010 at 2:23pm.

    WHY I DON'T FEEL "SAFE" supporting the teaparty as a whole....We all have something to be angry about when we awaken each day to see our country deteriorating in front of our eyes....but why not come together with intellectural solutions that would help all Americans equally, instead of Screaming "WE WANT OUR COUNTRY BACK"!!! I think what has happened to the angry "White Conservatives" that makes them so mad is that they now are forced to live a life style as I and many others had to live with the puedo title"MIDDLE CLASS", a life without hope, support or concern for our poverty, poor schools, low wages, denied promotions, working harder without rewards or raises, subjected to unlawful terminations without legal counsel, no medicall coverage or being terminated when you get sick, because of the cost of medical coverage to the company. This is not new to me and millions of Americans of all races.. However, the teaparty is really saying "I WANT MY MIDDLECLASS BACK"...when they shout "I WANT MY COUNTRY BACK"!!! They use to think poverty was a result of ignorance and laziness...now that they know better...they don't like being in the same boat as the rest of us. The sad thing about their party which keeps me from giving them support is their platform of Racism,Prejudices, Double-standards, and Blatent disrespect for OUR PRESIDENT. Many of my foreign friends see us as a joke! They are facing another "ISM" created out of RACISM where they now have to face the fact that their greed, their prejudice, their hate, their corruption, their racism has created this clone of the American Dream...heartless and without a mind or soul...lets call "Their Man In The Mirror"...FACISM! So "In Your Face" bigots of America....thanks for this mess you got ALL OF US INTO!!!!

    September 23, 2010 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  3. Elle in Idaho

    Boehner's "Pledge To America" sounds more like a pledge to Republicans. While some of the goals make sense, others certainly do not. My 5-year-old son will FINALLY have health care thanks to the repeal of "pre-existing conditions"... and you want to take that away from him? Then you Republicans tout smaller government and reducing the deficit... yet you want to ADD to it significantly by permanently extending the tax cuts for the wealthiest 2%? And after the way you have treated the President, by fighting on EVERY goal he has tried to achieve, you expect him to just go along with what you want just so you can blame him later when the American people are angry about it? Fat chance. If the Republicans take the house in 2012 we'll go from seeing something getting done to NOTHING getting done.

    September 23, 2010 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  4. need new gov

    This man is such a politician. Deficits are killing us when the Dems want to do something, but adding a few trillion dollars to it when it's his plan he's pushing, it's fine and dandy. WE NEED TO THROW THEM ALL OUT AND START FROM SCRATCH.

    September 23, 2010 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  5. GL

    The only thing the offer is too repeal everything President Obama and the Dems proposal. They still have not told the American people what is there plan other then repealing the Dems plan. They have to tell the American people with they will replace after they repeal Obama plan and they didn’t. Come on American voters Republicans are all talk and no action. Dana Bash asked for one spending cut and he said put an end to the unspent stimulus money which I believe is not much left – it is not a spending cut. What program are they going to cut to paid for the Bush tax is what he did not tell the American people and we can not let them get away with this and take us back to how things was before Obama what is plan in effect. We need to continue to move forward and fixing thing as we go and not go back and un do everything that have been done. R=reverse.

    September 23, 2010 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  6. Gym Teacher

    He said he "stumbled" into politics. Then he repeatedly dodged and refused to provide "specifics" when asked. Another example of stumbling. Maybe it's time he stumbled out of politics.

    September 23, 2010 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  7. Lucas Breen

    As an American making more than $5 million a year, I want to commend Mr. Boehner for his sensitivity to our financial situation and the willingness of republicans in Congress to go to bat for us.

    The news media makes it sound like rich people don't have any worries in this recession. They make it sound like poor people are the only ones hurting. Well, we have kids to send to college just like everyone else. We also need to put food on the table. My wife and I entertain a lot and I can tell you all the cost of having a full-time kitchen staff PLUS caterers every weekend has gone through the roof. My wife and I still need both planes for our travels, but we have downsized the flight attendant staff to the bare minimum, get our own drinks, and bring meals prepared in advance by our cook at home.

    Thanks you GOP for looking out for average rich people like me.

    September 23, 2010 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  8. need new gov

    I love the backdrop to this interview. We should fire this guy and put him to work in that hardware store.

    September 23, 2010 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  9. Anonymous

    Lots of Talk, Little Substance.. But hey! Get that TARP Money Back....

    September 23, 2010 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  10. Irma in North Carolina

    We do not need a racist like this and his buddies to get control of the country. I cant believe the american people would be this dumb. The guy up above guided us in the right direction in the last election, not to let Sarah get in the white house. I am sure he wont let us down this time.

    September 23, 2010 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  11. Haren

    Cut spending what? be specific.
    He trying to became speaker from back door.
    Social security, Medicare are security net and can not be tied to a speculator of wall street.

    September 23, 2010 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  12. John Que 3000

    Major load of horse crap..................

    September 23, 2010 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  13. GL

    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.

    That's because they are counting on winning back the house so they can cut Social Secruity and Department of Education with out telling the American. This is called tricking the American people which in the end is going cause us big time if they take over the house. Of course they are not going to tell us to our face the plan on cutting Social Secrity and Department Education because they know they will not win back the house if they tell the truth.

    September 23, 2010 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  14. Bill from GA

    I would like to suggest that the Honorable John Boehner (choke, choke, gag – phew that was hard to say) put forth a bill to reduce Congressional salaries to the level of 2008 and return all monies taken as salary above that amount since (including) 2008.

    To show his conviction in reducing government spending, Mr. Boehner and his fellow Republican leader, Senator Mitch McConnel, should set the example by immediately returning any of their salaries above that amount.

    September 23, 2010 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  15. GI Joe

    Cut taxes, cut medicare, cut soc. sec., repeal health care, more for the wealthy blah blah blah blah

    What are the specifics???

    September 23, 2010 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  16. La Piovra

    When you tell too many lies, then you turn orange.

    September 23, 2010 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  17. Steve in Denver

    Does ANYBODYmake sense out of not being able to extend unemployment benefits for 10 billion because it will hurt the deficit, but these bozos say we need to spend 4 TRILLION on tax cuts and run up the deficit?

    Is there ANY sanity on the R side? Anything?

    A deficit is a deficit, whether you raise spending or cut taxes. A 4 trillion deficit is a 4 trillion deficit no matter how you arrive at it.

    Of course, that said, we can't afford the $3 trillion to extend the tax cuts to the middle class. These tax cuts were a theft by the former occupant and republicans, like boehner, from our children and future generations of Americans to benefit our wealthiest citizens. It is time to stop them all, and work towards a balanced budget.

    September 23, 2010 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  18. Ant

    the way Mr Boehner speak about the economy is no different than same old policy and deffend the 3% Americans.

    September 23, 2010 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  19. Four and The Door

    I look forward to John Boehner taking his place as Speaker of The House. He gets it. It's a completely different experience listening to Nancy Pelosi. She all about politics. John Boehner is all about the country and what is good for America going forward.

    September 23, 2010 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  20. maf

    This has "stink" written all over it!!!
    This is the same tired old rhetoric that the GObP has been spouting since before the election. Boehner is still talking about "raising taxes", when what is really going to happen is the extension of some tax breaks will expire, thus taxes for the top 2% of income earners will go back to a tax rate in effect before GWB CHANGED IT!!! The Party of NO continues to twist words and put out false rhetoric!! There are STILL NO SOLUTIONS in the GObP platform!!!
    WAKE UP AMERICA!!!

    This "Pledge for America" has the opportunity to truly backfire on the Republicans. There are enough hints at social programs being quashed, denied, or simply not funded that EVERYBODY should be concerned if this gets any traction.

    GObP, get your resumes ready. The job market will be a tough one to find work in, and YOU are squarely to blame!!

    September 23, 2010 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  21. SuburbanBob

    Can you spell hypocrite? You're going to get spending under control by adding 4 trillion to the deficit? or You're going to get spending under control like you did last time? or You're just going to posture, protect your own job and the hell with the little people? If Billy Mays hadn't died, he could be the next republican nominee... Nobody could sell BS as good as Billy.

    September 23, 2010 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  22. Terry in Iowa

    Makes sense, 10 years of the Bush Tax cut and 7 million jobs gone. Sound economic policy. Deregulate more so the next Worldcom, AIG, etc. can still even more from “Real” Americans. This is definition of insanity, do the exact same thing and expect different results.

    Business small or large is not in business to create jobs, it’s in business to create wealth for it’s investors, period. It creates jobs only when it’s profitable to do so, in fact it’s true to say that it’s the business job to cut jobs by becoming as efficient and cost effective as it can be.

    Donald Trump spilled the beans last night. Many of the super wealthy will move from the USA if they have to pay more taxes, these are not American patriots, but vampires who are systematically sucking the life blood out of American and Boehner is their representative.

    It is the USA that provided them the resources and opportunities to succeed and they’ve done so through the sweat and blood of the American worker.

    September 23, 2010 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  23. Gobama!

    What an incompetent goon. The top 2% don't represent the "American people" What Bone-er is standing up for is big business corporate culture that takes advantage of the American people. He should be ashamed of himself as should anyone who has ever voted for this media hungry tan-in-a-bottle freak.

    September 23, 2010 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  24. Shawn

    uhh, the last time I checked the 2008 spending levels were still deficit spending. Why must the right continually deny they they have been unable to balance a budget and act like they will in the future. The only president that has had a surplus in my lifetime was a democrat. Now I agree that the current admin needs to get it under control, but the repubs need to stop acting like they are any better

    September 23, 2010 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  25. Chris~Albany, NY

    He didn't answer a single question, but yet he wants to be Speaker of the House. Unbelieveable!!!

    September 23, 2010 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
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