House Speaker John Boehner told me on Wednesday that a long-term deal on entitlements is possible, and also that there’s no good reason for Team Obama to shut down the White House tour. As the mandatory budget cuts continue to take effect, Boehner said he believes the American people still know that Washington primarily has a spending problem.
The speaker insisted that the president still doesn’t understand that spending is the real issue, although he was more optimistic about Obama’s offers to reform entitlements. He also said he believes talk of limiting Social Security benefit increases and “means testing” Medicare to disqualify the wealthiest seniors is for real, and that these items could be a basis for a grand bargain with the president.
But the Republican speaker made it clear that he wants to move budget negotiations out of the backrooms and in front of the broader Congress and the American people.
“The top-down deals haven’t worked out too well,” he said during the exclusive Kudlow Report interview, adding that the process needs to be “more out in the open.” And while he noted that he gets along well with Obama on a personal level, he said the budget process shouldn’t be about their relationship anymore.
The speaker also stepped into the controversy now swirling in Washington over the decision to shut down White House tours because of the sequester cuts. Boehner said, “The president is trying to make it tough on members of Congress. It’s just silly. I want to know who is being laid off at the White House. The Capitol is open for tours. We’ve been planning for this for months.”
Boehner closed the interview by telling me that he’s “still on a mission,” and that he intends to stick around as speaker for a while. He also announced that he is launching a new comment feature on www.speaker.gov that offers average Americans a chance to weigh in on government spending.
Watch the full interview here (two parts):