Boehner: Specific? Yes. Detailed? No.

Mar 4, 2011 8:50am

ABC News' Jonathan Karl reports: 

Is Speaker of the House John Boehner backing away from his promise to tackle entitlement reform?  You be the judge:

In a speech last weekend to the National Association of Religious Broadcasters, Speaker Boehner said this:

“Our budget, under the leadership of our Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, will specifically deal with entitlement reform. To not address entitlement programs, as is the case with the budget the president has put forward, would be an economic and moral failure. ” [emphasis added]

But in an interview with today’s Wall Street Journal, Boehner suggested the upcoming Republican budget would only set “goals” for bringing down the cost of Medicare and Social Security.  Here’s how the Journal put it:

“Mr. Boehner made it clear the Republicans are not themselves offering a detailed plan anytime soon. Rather, the budget is likely to contain cost containment goals, but no specific ideas on how to achieve them.” [emphasis added]

I asked a spokesman for the Speaker about this and got a curious response:

“Those are two different things,” said Mr. Boehner’s spokesman. “We can deal with it ‘specifically’ without a ‘detailed plan’”  He noted that budgets typically provide a broad overview of spending.

Boehner’s interview with the Wall Street Journal also appears to be at odds with recent comments by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

“We just can’t keep going like we’re going,” Cantor said in an interview on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.  “That’s why Republicans have said, when we produce our budget … later this month, or the beginning of next, we are going to include entitlement reform in that budget.”

“Come a month from now, you're going to see Republican proposals for how we want to reform entitlements,” Cantor continued.  “We've got to face the facts and be honest with people. You know, we can — we can move to protect today's seniors and those nearing retirement, 55 and older. But for the rest of us, we've got to come to grips with the facts if we're going to save these programs, they're going to have to change.”

The bottom line:  Republican Congressional leaders are deeply divided about whether they should go forward with their own specific – or detailed – plan on entitlement reform before President Obama offers his own plan.

Some Republican leaders believe it would be foolish to offer a plan on their own because it would lead to Democratic attacks.  Others, including House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, believe they have no choice but to offer a plan.


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