A feisty House Speaker John Boehner said this morning that he doesn't believe President Obama "has the guts" to make the tough choices to address the government's mounting deficit problem.
"He doesn't have the courage to take on the liberal side of his own party," Boehner said at a breakfast briefing with television correspondents and anchors. "He just doesn't have the courage to lead when it comes to our long-term spending problem."
The top House Republican said that when it comes to making tough decisions on the nation's deficit, "I don't think he has the guts to do it."
Although Boehner expressed some optimism on achieving an agreement on immigration, he was pessimistic about accomplishing almost anything else this year, saying the president is more interested in defeating Republicans in next mid-term elections. Defeating Republicans, he said, is the only way Obama can accomplish the "liberal agenda" he outlined in his inaugural address.
"I think he'd love to have Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House and Harry Reid as the leader of the Senate for the last two years of his presidency" Boehner said. "He knows that none of [the president's agenda outlined in the Inaugural] is going to happen as long as we have the majority in the House."
But Boehner sounded a different tone on immigration.
"We have to come to agreement on immigration," he said. "There is a lot that can be done."
Asked directly if the Republican-controlled House could support an agreement that includes a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants now living in the United States, Boehner said it was way too early to answer the question.
"Slow down. Slow down. How about a little foreplay?" Boehner joked. "There's a bipartisan conversation going on in the Senate. There's a bipartisan conversation going in the House. Let these things work their way along. It is too early to talk about legislation going on in one house or the other."
He added: "The only thing I worry about on immigration is the president getting in the way."
Boehner is so pessimistic about achieving a budget agreement, he said House Republicans may not even attempt to go forward with tax reform - a top GOP priority - in this Congress.
"There's a debate going on about whether we can get to the kind of tax reform we want given the outcome of the election," Boehner said. "We'd love to do tax reform. Lower rates for all, clean up the code, make it simpler. But why go through all that effort if it isn't going anywhere or why go through that effort if the outcome would be unacceptable?"
On the coming budget showdown over automatic spending cuts to go into effect on March 1, the president has insisted on a "balanced" approach that includes more increases in tax revenue as well as spending cuts. Boehner suggested he would agree to no more tax increases.
"The president got his revenue," Boehner said, referring to the deal Obama struck with Congress over the New Year to allow tax rates to go up for those earning more than $400,000 a year.