Boehner: the president lacks 'guts' and 'courage'
February 12th, 2013
11:58 AM ET
9 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. EveT

    Leave it to the leader of the "family values" party to make a crude remark in mixed company. What a class act {sarcasm}.

    February 12, 2013 11:18 pm at 11:18 pm |
  2. marjee123

    In response to JOHN. . do you understand how to search the internet. Well I guess not because you will see that every one of the media outlets are owned by CONSERVATIVES. Yep every single solitary one so the media outlets. Now let go further any body with an ounce of sense, which those that don't understand FACTS would know that if all these outlets are CONSERVATIVES than why would they all want to follow the Democratic side. Heck we all know they aren't.

    February 12, 2013 11:27 pm at 11:27 pm |
  3. Honest Song

    Did Boehner actually say that the prez was afraid of the extremes in his party?! the Repubs allowed the tea bags to run them into the ... Rep. Cantor is probably planning to dis Boehner (again) anyway.

    February 12, 2013 11:39 pm at 11:39 pm |
  4. DK

    Wow...nice misleading title.

    February 13, 2013 12:55 am at 12:55 am |
  5. Joe the nobody

    Here's the pot calling the kettle....a kettle, again, and again, and again. I don't know how they can look in a mirror and tell themselves they do a great service to the American people...every single day.

    February 13, 2013 04:29 am at 4:29 am |
  6. Old Salt

    Mr. Boehner, you've certainly made yourself clear. Doesn't it make you wonder why your approval rating with America is 9%, while the president's is 53%? Could it be that America sees clearly what you're doing, while you think you have us fooled? Get real, big guy. You'll be the House minority leader in '14. The GOP "leadership" in Congress is an exclusive club. You're the only folks in America who think we can't see you or figure out that you've put party before country for so long. Your whoring days are almost over, John. TTFN

    February 13, 2013 07:42 am at 7:42 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17