House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) pushed back against reports that a $4 trillion deficit-reduction package he had been discussing with President Obama included $1 trillion in tax increases.
“There were no tax increases ever on the table. There was never any agreement to allow tax rates to go up,” Boehner told reporters at a brief press conference Monday before heading to the White House for another round of negotiations.
Boehner reiterated his position that the debt ceiling “must be raised,” and praised President Obama for “making that case” at a press conference earlier in the day. Tax increases, however, could not realistically be part of the solution. “The American people will not accept, and the House cannot pass, a bill that raises taxes on job creators,” he said. “The House can only pass a debt limit bill that includes spending cuts larger than the hike in the debt limit, as well as real restraints on future spending.”
The speaker acknowledged that a substantial gap remained between the two sides and accused Democrats of not being serious about reforming entitlements, the primary drivers of the national debt and deficits. “It takes two to tango and they are not there yet,” Boehner said. “The conversation cannot continue if they’re not serious about fundamental reform of the entitlement process.”
In addition to spending cuts, which are unlikely to be of substantial size absent entitlement reform, Boehner said major spending reforms — such as spending caps and a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution — should be included in a deal as well.“To prevent a default, a bill must pass the Congress. A bill that doesn’t meet these tests can’t pass the House of Representatives,” he said.
Boehner conceded that he was a likely to suffer political consequences as a result of any vote to increase the debt ceiling, but said he was willing to accept them in exchange for a good deal to significantly reduce the deficit (without raising taxes). “I understand that this is going to take sacrifice, and is going to take political capital on both sides,” he said. “I’m certainly willing to take my fair share of it, but if we’re going to take political capital, then let’s stand up and do the big thing, the right thing for the country.”