Despite President Obama urging both sides to make sacrifices and reach a “balanced approach” in the ongoing deficit negotiations, House Speaker John Boehner told reporters this afternoon that raising taxes is off the table and suggested that the president should be satisfied getting his requested debt limit increase.
“This is going to take sacrifice, and this is going to take political capital on both sides, and I’m certainly willing to take my fair share of it, but if we’re going to take political capital then let’s step up and do the big thing and the right thing for the country,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said. “Most Americans would say that a balanced approach is a simple one: the administration gets its debt limit increase and the American people get their spending cuts and their reforms, and adding tax increases to the equation doesn’t balance anything.”
Before heading to the White House for a second-straight day of talks, Boehner claimed that tax revenue increases were “never on the table” in the bipartisan negotiations to increase the debt limit.
“We’ve been involved in I think very sincere and honest negotiations and honest discussions.” Boehner said. “This boils down to two things, and I said it on Saturday night: The president continues to insist on raising taxes and they are just not serious enough about fundamental entitlement reform to solve the problem for the near to intermediate future. I want to get there. I want to do what I think in the right – the best interest of the country, but it takes two to tango and they’re not there yet.”
But less than 22 days until the Treasury Deparment’s deadline to strike a deal, Boehner stood by the Republicans’ long-stated principle heading into the talks that the House can only pass a bill that includes spending cuts that exceed the increase to the debt limit, and does not increase tax revenue.
“I agree with the president that the national debt limit must be raised and I’m glad that he made the case for it today, but the American people will not accept — and the House cannot pass — a bill that raises taxes on job creators,” Boehner said. “The House can only pass a debt limit bill that includes spending cuts larger than the hike in the debt limit as well as real restraints on future spending.”
With 218 votes needed to pass a bill through the House, and scores of Republicans opposing an increase to the debt limit regardless of the total cuts in the package, Boehner admitted that he, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and the president will have to find a deal that at least some Democrats will support.
“Whatever agreement that we come to is going to have to pass the House and Senate on a bipartisan basis,” Boehner said. “I agree with the president we cannot allow our nation to default on our debt, but to prevent a default, a bill must pass the Congress, and a bill that doesn’t meet these tests can’t pass the House of Representatives. This is the message that we will take again to the White House today and hope that we can work our way through this.”
Boehner said that he and President Obama “agree that the current levels of spending, including entitlement spending are unsustainable” but that they “do not agree on his view that government needs more revenues through higher taxes on job creators” or the extent of the entitlement problem.
“There was a big conversation underway about revenues. Revenues in the contest of tax reform, lowering rates, broadening the base, which would encourage more economic activity and real growth in our economy that would result in additional revenues to the federal government,” Boehner said. “There is in fact a way to do this, but…that conversation can’t continue if they’re not serious about fundamental reform of the entitlement programs.”
Boehner also said that Republicans want to enact a balanced budget amendment, legislation that will be on the House floor next week, “to keep the federal government from spending us into the same situation again.”
“The fundamental questions are this: can you control government spending without fundamentally reforming entitlements? I think the answer is no. Do you need to raise taxes in order to get control of spending? I think the answer is no. If you want to see an increase in government revenues then let’s grow the economy and create jobs, broaden the tax base and lower rates,” he said. “Our disagreement with the president is not about closing loopholes. None of us are fond of loopholes. Our disagreement is over the idea of raising taxes on the very people that we’re asking to create jobs in our country.”
ABC News’ Sunlen Miller contributed to this report