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Speaker Boehner's Press Conference on the Debt Ceiling

Speaker Boehner's Press Conference on the Debt Ceiling

By Rep. John Boehner - July 22, 2011

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE SPEAKER: I want to be entirely clear. No one wants to default on the full faith and credit of the United States government. And I'm convinced that we will not. Starting tonight I'll be working with colleagues here in the Capitol, both the House and the Senate, to find a responsible path forward. And I have confidence in the bipartisan leaders of the Congress that can come together and to ensure that we have an agreement that will allow the country to avoid default and meets the principles that we've outlined.

Spending cuts that must be greater than the increase in the debt limit and no tax increases. The discussions we've had with the White House have broken down for two reasons. First, they insisted on raising taxes. We had an agreement on a revenue number. A revenue number that we thought we could reach based on a flatter tax code with lower rates and a broader base. That would produce more economic growth, more employees and more taxpayers.

And a tax system that was more efficient in collecting the taxes that were due the federal government. And let me just say that the White House moved the goalpost. There was an agreement, some additional revenues, until yesterday when the president demanded $400 billion more which was going to be nothing more than a tax increase on the American people. And I can tell you that Leader Cantor and I were very disappointed in this call for higher revenue.

But secondly, they refused to get serious about cutting spending and making the tough choices that are facing our country on entitlement reform. That's the bottom line. I take the same oath of office as the president of the United States. I've got the same responsibilities as the president of the United States. And I think that's for both of us to do what's in the best interests of our country.

And I can tell you that it's not in the best interests of our country to raise taxes during this difficult economy, and it's not in the best interests of our country to ignore the serious spending challenges that we face. I want to say this is a serious debate, and it's a debate about jobs, and it's a debate about our economy, and frankly it's also a big debate about the future of our country. You know, until recently the president was demanding that the Congress increase the debt limit with no strings attached. As a matter of fact, the treasury secretary sent me a letter two days after we were sworn in, in January demanding that we give him a clean increase in the debt limit. I immediately responded and told the treasury secretary that the American people would not tolerate a clean increase in the debt ceiling unless there were serious spending cuts attached and real reforms to the way we spent the American people's money. I went to New York City in May, gave a speech to the New York Economic Club, where I outlined the challenges we were facing and I made it clear that we would not increase the debt limit without cuts that exceeded that increase in the debt limit.

That there would be no new taxes and that there would be serious spending reforms put in place. Listen it's time to get serious and I'm confident that the bipartisan leaders here in the Congress can act. The White House won't get serious. We will.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. Boehner --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Your own aides say that the package of cuts that was on the table were worth about $3 trillion. How can you say that the White House wasn't serious about spending cuts? That's even more than you were asking for initially.

BOEHNER: Listen, we've put plan after plan on the table. You know the House passed its budget. We had our plan out there. The House passed the "Cut, Cap and Balance". Never once did the president ever come to the table with a plan. It was always -- we were always pushing. And, you know, when you get into these negotiations, sometimes it's good to back away from the tree and take a look at the forest.

And yesterday afternoon after the president demanded more revenue in this package, I came back against -- away from the tree to take a look at the forest. I spent most of the morning and afternoon consulting with my fellow leaders, members of our conference, and others about the way to go forward. And I just want to tell you what I said several weeks ago. Dealing with the White House is like dealing with a bowl of Jell-o. I'm not going to get into the partisan sniping that we heard earlier.

But I can tell you that there was every effort in the world to avoid the real cuts that we need to make in order to preserve the fiscal integrity of our country and frankly the real cuts that needed to be made -- that need to be made to preserve our entitlement programs, which are important programs, to tens of millions of Americans.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Speaker Boehner --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Speaker Boehner --

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) frustration with the White House, but how can you concede that you can forge an agreement here just exclusively with people in the House and the Senate without having some buy-in (ph) from the White House?

BOEHNER: I think that we can work together here on Capitol Hill to forge an agreement, and I'm hopeful that the president will work with us on that agreement.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Speaker Boehner --

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: President Obama said that you did not return his phone call. Has this permanently damaged your relationship with the president?

BOEHNER: Listen, the president and I have gotten to know each other pretty well over the course of the last six months, and I can tell you that in all of our conversations, they were respectful, they were firm. There was frustration on both sides. But I don't -- I don't believe that our relationship is permanently damaged.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The president has invited you to the White House tomorrow morning. Are you going to go?

BOEHNER: Yes, ma'am.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. Speaker, do you trust the president? (INAUDIBLE) can't come to any sort of agreement on this. I mean you say he backed away from an offer he made. Do you trust him as a negotiator?

BOEHNER: I do trust him as a negotiator, but you have to understand that every step of this process was difficult. You know, there's a reason why we have two political parties. There's a reason why the president and I come from different political parties. The president believes in the size of government, in more taxes from the American people. Listen, every weekend when I'm not stuck here in Washington, D.C., I'm out somewhere in America and I'm out around my district and I run into people, small business people, who don't understand why they pay the taxes they pay.

Don't understand all the regulations that are coming out of Washington impeding their ability to grow their business and to hire more people. And when you boil all of this all down, yes, we've got to save the fiscal future for our country, but we've got to get our economy going again. And we've got to give people confidence in our economy, and the way to do that is to have real spending cuts now.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The differences in revenue it sounds like you and the White House -- amount to about $400 billion over 10 years, that is about $40 billion (INAUDIBLE) considering the context of the (INAUDIBLE) federal budget is not really that much. (INAUDIBLE) the stakes are so high (INAUDIBLE) the talks have broken down over a relatively significant number? BOEHNER: The extra $400 billion would have had to come from increasing taxes on the very people that we expect to invest in our economy and to create jobs.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The president suggested that you walked away from this because you couldn't control your own caucus. That there are people -- there are Republicans -- we have heard Republicans who say that default isn't something they're concerned about that don't want to see a debt ceiling raised under any circumstances. Is there any truth that you were pressured to walk away from something that you might have otherwise --

BOEHNER: Absolutely not. I gave the president's proposal serious consideration. But let's understand something, there was an agreement -- there was an agreement with the White House at $800 billion in revenue. It's the president who walked away from his agreement and demanded more money at the last minute. That is -- and the only way to get that extra revenue was to raise taxes.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) this point what is the likelihood of (INAUDIBLE) short-term debt limit increase and is that something that you and the president have ever discussed?

BOEHNER: The president and I have never discussed a short-term increase in the debt limit. I'm not really interested in a short-term increase in the debt limit. I believe that we have two challenges. That we have to increase the debt limit, and we have to deal with our deficit and our debt, and the sooner we do that, the better off our country will be.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) three possible options, Cut, Cap, and Balance, (INAUDIBLE) and McConnell /Reid. Cut, Cap, Balance has failed in the Senate. The big deal just collapsed. What else is there to do?

BOEHNER: I'll be working with the bipartisan congressional leaders on a path forward. I'm confident -- I'm confident that Congress can act next week and not jeopardize the full faith and credit of the United States government.

 

John Boehner is a United States Representative from Ohio and the House minority leader.
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