Boehner Challenges Obama on Entitlements: ‘I Said It Right to His Face’

by Robert Costa

Washington — House Speaker John Boehner continued to talk up entitlement reform at his morning press conference. Boehner avoided specifics, but he did detail how he hopes to frame the debate in coming months. “We are not just going to cut discretionary spending, but also wasteful mandatory spending,” he said. “In the spring, you will see our budget, which will chart a new path toward prosperity and address our fiscal challenges, including entitlement spending.”

“I think if we are going to talk about entitlements, the first step ought to be laying out the size of the problem: Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. We have got to lay out the problem so the American people understand clearly how big of a problem this is,” Boehner said.

Boehner cautioned, however, that this could take time. “Once people understand how big the problem is, then, and only then, should we begin to talk about an array of possible solutions,” he said. “Out of that conversation, we will be able to determine what is doable and what is not. But I think it has to be a thoughtful, deliberate discussion.”

Boehner wants to avoid “leading with solutions,” which, he warned, could cause any hope for reform to fizzle. Slowing things down, he said, will encourage a healthier discussion.

“We need to have an adult conversation on entitlements,” Boehner said. “The president needs to lead that discussion. He was elected to lead, not to sit on the sidelines.” In recent days, Boehner noted that he has told the president about his commitment. “I said it right to his face,” he said. “I am ready to sit down with the president.”

Boehner sees his ‘educate first, reform later’ strategy on entitlements as a path to victory. It will also stop Congress from “ending up where it always ends up: doing nothing.”

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