All sides claim that there was real progress after last night's White House meeting, but sources tell me that negotiators are still a few billion dollars and several policy riders away from a deal. And in my exclusive interview with Speaker Boehner shortly before the White House meeting, he staked out a hard line.
Stephanopoulos: You know what the President says. He said it today in Philadelphia. He said it to you in the private meeting yesterday that the Democrats have given you as much– as many cuts as you called for in your original proposal and you’ve got to find a way to declare victory and go home. Why don’t you do that?
Boehner: We’re fighting for the largest cuts that we can, because it’ll help our economy. And–
Stephanopoulos: But you called for $32 billion for cuts in your original proposal and now you’re at $33 [billion].
Boehner: George, remember where all this started. The Democrats controlled the House last year, they controlled the Senate. Big majorities in both the House and Senate. And we had a Democrat in the White House. They should have done this budget last year. They couldn’t come to an agreement. And so, when they got to December, they punted– and funded the government through March 4th. Now, we’ve kept the government open– while cutting about $10 billion worth of spending. It’s– it’s– we’re cleaning up last year’s mess.
Stephanopoulos: Right. But when you came in this year, you proposed and your leadership proposed a bill that would cut about $32 billion and now you’re beyond that. I– why isn’t that good enough?
Boehner: Well, because the House worked its will. For the first time in– the— all the years that I’ve been here, the House was allowed to work its will. All Members were allowed to offer amendments. And what we came up with— was $100 billion worth of spending cuts. And specifically —specific policy riders that have been a part of every appropriations process. And we sent it over to the Senate. It’s been 46 days. The Senate has not acted. And– and they’re negotiating from– from a position, where they have no– they– they’ve got no bill that they’ve passed.
Stephanopoulos: You mentioned the policy riders. The President took those on today, as well. Some of them include cutting funding for Planned Parenthood. Cutting the enforcement authority of the Environmental Protection Agency— Administration. The President said those have no place in a short-term continuing resolution. Your response?
Boehner: There has never been an appropriation process– where there were not limitations on what the Administration could do. When it comes to an out of control bureaucracy in Washington– we know that that’s also getting in the way of creating jobs in America. The EPA’s out of control. And the American people do not want taxpayer dollars used to fund elective abortions.
Stephanopoulos: So if you hold onto that, the White House, the Democrats have been very clear there is no deal. The government’s going to shut down.
Boehner: We’re going to continue to have conversations with our colleagues across the aisle. And I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to come to some agreement.
Boehner also denied reports that he would only sign a budget deal if 218 Republicans sign off on it.
Stephanopoulos: Let me ask you one final question about this. And really it’s about your standard for a deal. Some of your colleagues have said that you’ve told them that you will only sign on to a deal that will get 218 Republican votes. Is that true?
Boehner: I’ve never said that privately nor have I ever said it publicly.
Stephanopoulos: So, what is– what is the standard? Do you have to have a majority of Republicans to get a deal?
Boehner: George, I don’t have a standard. There’s no– there’s no one standard that I’m going to impose on myself. I’m fighting for the largest number of spending cuts possible. Because it really will help our economy. This is what the American people had to say last November. They wanted us to cut spending in Washington, D.C. and they wanted us to do everything we could to help create jobs in our country.
Stephanopoulos: But if it’s a deal that gets 160 or 170 Republicans, 60 or 70 Democrats, that’s good enough?
Boehner: George, I’m not going to get into the ifs and ands and this and that. I’m going to fight for the best deal I can for my team.
And what about members of Congress getting paid during a shutdown – here’s that exchange:
Stephanopoulos: I know you don’t want a government shutdown, but should it happen, do you think it’s right for Members of Congress to be paid during a shutdown?
Boehner: George, our goal is to cut spending. Not to shut down the government.
Stephanopoulos: I understand that. I know that’s not what you want. But it may happen anyway. And if it does–
Boehner: George, George. I am– I have said this a thousand times since the 1st of the year. I do not want to shut the government down.
Stephanopoulos: Oh, I under–
Boehner: I think that is irresponsible.
Stephanopoulos: I understand that.
Boehner: And the House will act as soon as tomorrow to ensure that the government is open while we work to reduce spending.
Stephanopoulos: I understand. I’m asking a different question. I take you at your word that you don’t want a government shutdown. I believe you do not want a government shutdown. If it happens, do you think Members of Congress should get paid?
Boehner: Members of Congress are elected by their constituents. If there is a government shutdown not only will Congress not be paid, but federal employees will not be paid. And we’ll have to determine after the government–
Stephanopoulos: Not under the current bills that are before you. There– there’s not a provision to restrict Congressional pay.
Boehner: I’m not– we’ll have to take a look at that. I’m not sure that that’s entirely accurate.
Stephanopoulos: You’re saying you don’t want members of Congress to be paid during a shutdown, if it comes to pass?
Boehner: No, they shouldn’t be getting paid. Just like federal employees shouldn’t be getting paid.