House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) offered his side of the story Friday evening, echoing the tone of his letter to House Republicans. He said negotiations with the White House broke down for two reasons: 1) President Obama’s insistence on raising taxes, and 2) Obama’s “refusal to get serious” about spending cuts and meaningful entitlement reform.
Boehner said “an agreement had been reached” earlier in the week that included about $800 billion in new revenue (but not through raising increases). However, the White House on Thursday “moved the goal post” by insisting on an additional $400 billion in tax increases, which Boehner refused to accept. “I take the same oath of office as the president…to do what is in the best interest of our country,” Boehner said. “And it’s not in the best interest of our country to raise taxes in this economy.”
The Republican position has been clear and consistent, Boehner argued. They would only agree to raise the debt ceiling if it included spending cuts that exceed the amount of the debt increase and no tax increases. “We’ve put plan after plan on the table,” he said, pointing to the House budget resolution authored by Paul Ryan, and the recently passed “Cut, Cap and Balance” legislation, which the Senate voted to block Friday morning. “Never once did the president come to the table with a plan.”
When the president demanded the $400 billion in additional revenue through tax increases, Boehner said he had to “back away from the tree and take a look at the forest.” After consulting with his Republican colleagues all day, he decided to pull out of the talks.
The administration had made “every effort in the world,” he said, to avoid serious consideration of “real spending cuts” and entitlement reform, which is essential to getting the country back on a secure fiscal footing and to preserving entitlement programs for future generations.
The speaker repeated his previous assessment that “dealing with the White House is like dealing with a bowl of Jell-O,” but declined to stoop to the “partisan sniping that we heard earlier,” alluding to testy tone of the president’s press conference moments earlier. “Every step of this process was difficult,” Boehner said. “There’s a reason why we have two political parties.”
In spite of the abrupt end to the talks, however, Boehner said he still trusted Obama as a negotiator and did not believe their relationship had been permanently damaged.
HE said that beginning this evening, congressional leaders will work together to try to come up with “a responsible path forward” ahead of an 11 a.m. summit at the White House tomorrow morning. “If the White House won’t get serious, we will,” he said. The speaker expressed confidence that an agreement could be reached “next week” to raise the debt ceiling and avoid a downgrade to the country’s credit rating, that would also meet the principles laid out by Republicans in the negotiations. “No one wants to default,” he said. “I’m convinced that we will not.”