ABC News’ John R. Parkinson reports:
Minority Leader John Boehner was adamant today as he worked to clarify his position on a partial extension of the Bush-era tax cuts for the middle class, but the Ohio Republican would not further address a hypothetical scenario of a partial extension of tax cuts only for the middle class.
“I said Sunday about five times that I want to extend all of the current tax rates, and that’s what the American people want,” Boehner said. “I want to extend all of the current tax rates. I want the speaker to allow a fair and open debate on our two-point plan, because if we extend the current tax rates and we’re able to cut spending, we’ll reduce some of the uncertainty coming out of Washington, D.C., and employers will then have the ability to continue to create jobs in America.”
The Republican leader’s comments come after an appearance on a Sunday talk show when he said that if faced with no other options, he would support a partial extension for individuals earning up to $200,000 per year, and families making $250,000 per year – even if Congress does not extend the Bush-era tax cuts for the highest income bracket.
While the Obama administration has criticized congressional Republicans for holding the middle class tax cut hostage, House Republicans pledged party unity against any tax increases for any taxpayers and insist that allowing the high-income tax cuts to expire would cause further damage to the economy.
“No single policy is having a greater effect on hindering jobs creation than the possibility of a tax increase in January,” House Republican Conference Chair Mike Pence said. “Higher taxes won’t get anybody hired. Raising taxes on job creators won’t create jobs. And House Republicans will stand united to oppose any tax increase on any American in January.”
Boehner also reacted to nine-term Delaware Republican Rep. Mike Castle’s Senate primary defeat Tuesday at the hands of Tea Party candidate Christine O’Donnell. The Republican leader said he warned fellow Republican House members 18 months ago to listen and stay engaged with their constituents.
“You’ve heard me talk all year about the rebellion that’s going on in America. I’ve never seen more Americans engaged in our government in my lifetime,” Boehner said. “The voters of — of Delaware have spoken and you’re going to continue to hear the American people speak — not just last night, but you’re going to hear them speak loud and clearly come November.”
Republican Minority Whip Eric Cantor also reacted to last night’s primaries, where Tea Party candidates continued to knock off incumbents and the GOP’s establishment candidates.
“The people spoke last night in the elections that we saw, and that’s what this election is going to be about. It’s that simple,” Cantor, R-Virginia, said. “Not allowing tax hikes to occur [and] cutting the spending. People are tired of politicians that are not living up to their obligations.”
Asked what kind of impact Tea Party candidates could have in the next Congress, Boehner said they could have a positive effect and encouraged the Tea Party faithful to stay engaged.
“I would hope that they and other Americans would stay engaged in what’s happening here in Washington on a daily basis. If they stay engaged and they work with their members, both Democrats and Republicans, they can drive the debate and they can drive this town to do the right thing for the American people,” Boehner said. “We want to encourage Americans to take an active role in their government. Because when Americans are engaged Washington listens. When the American people are not engaged, then the politicians are in charge. And we’ve seen what that’s led to.”
Asked about predictions that Republicans are poised to win the majority in the House in the midterm elections, Boehner said it is still early and dismissed chatter about him becoming Speaker of the House.
“It’s all a bit premature,” Boehner said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do in order to earn the majority back. But if we’re able to earn the majority back, we want to do so to renew our efforts for a smaller, less costly and more accountable government here in Washington, D.C.”
– John R. Parkinson