Transcript Part II: George Stephanopoulos and Speaker John Boehner

By Kate McCarthy

Apr 7, 2011 5:57am

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
You mentioned that conference.  There’s some reports on– that when you talked about the White House meeting yesterday, you got quite emotional with your conference, when they gave you a standing ovation and said they stood behind you.

SPEAKER BOEHNER:
Yeah, we’ve got– we’ve got a good team.  Andyou know, like any big group of people, there’s 242 of us, you know?  For a couple days, we have Members kind of wander around, wondering where this was all going. But I asked my colleagues on Monday night to stand behind me.  To stand behind our plan to keep the government open, keep it funded and to continue to fight for these spending cuts.  They’ve been very supportive.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
And bottom line, you think there will be a deal that will get a majority of Republicans supporting it?

SPEAKER BOEHNER:
I feel good about– about eventually getting to a deal.  I’d like to have it over tomorrow.  My colleagues would like to have it over tomorrow. We’re dealing with our budget for next year.  Where we’ve decided that it’s time to deal with the big issues that face the American people.  And they’re– people are ready to get on to that debate.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
I want to ask you about that.  One final question on this.  Do you think that some of your Members might almost in some– some sense need the shock of a shutdown to do what they need to do to get a bigger deal?

SPEAKER BOEHNER:
I don’t think so.  I don’t think so.  I think that they realize that there are a lot of fights coming down the pike.  Whether it’s over next year’s budget.  Whether it’s increasing the debt limit.  Funding the
government at the end of this fiscal year, starting the next fiscal year.  We’ve got a lot of disagreements with the vision that the President has for the direction of this government.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
Let’s talk about one of those big ones.  Congressman Paul Ryan put out his budget yesterday.  His budget blueprint about $6 trillion in cuts.  The President’s press secretary said it fails the test of fairness by giving tax cuts to millionaires and putting the burden on senior citizens and students.

SPEAKER BOEHNER:
Well, listen, we’ve made it clear that we were not going to punt.  We were not going to whistle past the graveyard like Congresses in the past.  You know, the President set up a Deficit Reduction Commission a year ago.  And while I didn’t agree with all of the work that they did they—they really worked hard.  And made a lot of very good ideas.  And the President submits his budget to the Congress some six, seven weeks ago and takes no – no recommendations form his own Deficit Reduction Commission. The same kind of Washington nonsense that we’ve seen for decades.  We’ve got big issues facing our country and it’s time to face up to them.  Paul Ryan did a marvelous job in outlining how we can reform this government.  How we can put it on a path to prosperity.  And I’m proud of the work that he did.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
Proud of the work that he did, but he’s also taken some great political risks, as well.  Your– many Republicans last year ran against Democrats saying that the President’s health care plan would cut $500
billion out of Medicare.  Now, he’s got a plan to completely replace Medicare that the Congressional Budget Office says is going to lead to increased premiums for most seniors.

SPEAKER BOEHNER:
Well, George, if you look at what Paul Ryan’s doing we’re talking about transforming Medicare and making sure that it exists.  You know what the greatest single threat to Medicare is?  Doing nothing.  Doing nothing is the greatest threat to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.  The American people know this.  And they wonder why Washington will never fess up to the big challenges that face us.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
But do you think–

SPEAKER BOEHNER:
The President– I’ve been begging the President for months.  "Mr. President, let’s lock arms."

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
What does he tell you?

SPEAKER BOEHNER:
"Let’s go do this together."

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
What does he tell you?

SPEAKER BOEHNER:
"Oh, well– I’d like to work with you, but we’ll see.  We’ll see." When are we going to face up to the big challenges that our country faces?

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
But do you think–

SPEAKER BOEHNER:
We are not going to kick the can down the road.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
Do you think when voters saw those ads last year saying, "Boy, you’re against the President’s $500 billion in cuts," they expected you to come with a plan that would completely transform Medicare?

SPEAKER BOEHNER:
George, we make clear that no senior and no one 55 or older will be affected by any of these changes.  But for those that are 54 and under, we’re going to have to make modifications to these programs or they will not exist.  And I think the American people want us to deal with this openly and honestly.  And I’m proud of the work– that our team has done.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
You mentioned the President– the chairman of the President’s commission, Erskine Bowles and Senator Simpson.  They also criticized Senator Ryan—I mean, Congressman Ryan’s plan saying because it didn’t use revenues to bring down the deficit.  It didn’t take on defense.  Can you imagine a scenario, let’s say the President does come to the table.  Takes on your challenge on Medicare.  Maybe on Social Security.  Can you imagine a situation where your conference would vote for revenue increases?

SPEAKER BOEHNER:
I think my team is ready to deal with these big questions.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
Including revenues?

SPEAKER BOEHNER:
It’s time to sit down and put– I’ll put everything on the table.  I think Washington has a spending problem.  I don’t think it has a revenue problem.  I’m not interested in raising taxes on the American people.  But if it takes leaving it on the table to have the conversation, I’ll have the conversation.  It’s time to deal with these challenges.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
A couple final questions.  You’ve worked a lot more with the President in the last three months than you have in the previous several years.  What have you learned about him?

SPEAKER BOEHNER:
We’ve always had a very good relationship.  We get along, get along fine.  But we have very different visions for what America should look like and what the role of the federal government should be.  I’m one who believes the government’s too big.  Spends too much.  And is not being held accountable.  The President clearly sees the federal government in a much larger role in our society.  A much more activist role.  And I believe that that gets in the way of creating jobs in America.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
You think it might take 18 holes between you and him to get this deal done?

SPEAKER BOEHNER:
I would hope not.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
No?  (Laugh) So, that’s not going to happen anytime soon?

SPEAKER BOEHNER:
Well, no– if the President invites me to play golf, it’s the President. You don’t say no to the President.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
And finally about 100 days into the job what have you learned about— being Speaker?  What surprised you?

SPEAKER BOEHNER:
Well, it’s a big job.  And, you know, sure right after I was sworn in we had this tragic shooting in Tucson, Arizona.  And you know, within moments, I began to realize just how big a job this is.  Try to ensure the safety of 435 Members of Congress 5,000 to 10,000 staff members— the institution.  It– it hit me very clearly that this is a very big job with a lot of responsibilities.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
You saw what happened to Speaker Gingrich during the government shutdown. You going to avoid that fate?

SPEAKER BOEHNER:
Yes, sir.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
Mr. Speaker, thanks very much.

SPEAKER BOEHNER:
Thank you.

The interview took place on Wednesday, April 6, 2011. This transcript has been edited for clarity.

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