TRANSCRIPT: Diane Sawyer's Interview with Speaker of the House John Boehner (11/8/12)

The following interview took place on Thursday, November 8, 2012 in Washington D.C. and a portion aired on "World News with Diane Sawyer."

DIANE SAWYER: Have to begin with the election, what was the first word you said to yourself when you knew that the President was going to win again?

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE JOHN BOEHNER: It's the hand I was dealt. I'll play it. And I went to bed.

DIANE SAWYER: Right away? How early? (crosstalk)

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE JOHN BOEHNER: 11:15. I saw the handwriting on the wall for a couple of hours, and at 11:15, the race was, in my view, finished, and I went to sleep. And slept like a baby.

DIANE SAWYER: Let us talk about right now, because as everyone has said, a disaster is looming, a fiscal cliff is looming. The President has said, do it now, let us get a deal, let us end this gridlock now. Is it going to happen?

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE JOHN BOEHNER: You know, Diane, I was born an optimist. I always see the glass as half-full, and I had a nice conversation with the President yesterday, and even over the course of (JOHN BOEHNER coughs) these last couple of years, we've had a very cordial relationship. And I remain optimistic that we're going to be able to find common ground to avoid this fiscal cliff and find a way to work together to deal with the big issues the American people sent us here to deal with.

DIANE SAWYER: But by when, by January 1 st?

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE JOHN BOEHNER: I would hope so. I don't really see any reason that we have to get near the fiscal cliff. I think our members understand, Democrats understand, the President understands, that raising taxes on all Americans is the wrong thing to do, that this sequester, automatic spending cuts expected to hit January 2 nd, half of which would come out of military, I think members understand that's unacceptable. And I think that in and of itself will help us find the common ground that's necessary.

DIANE SAWYER: But how much are you ready to start negotiating right now, because you talked about tax reform, the President is talking about specific increases, he campaigned on specific increases in tax rates from 35% to 39% for those making more than $250,000. So, is that on the table, right now?

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE JOHN BOEHNER: I've made it clear to the President, and I think I said - laid out yesterday, that raising taxes on small business people is the wrong prescription given where our economy is. And because when you look at the President's proposal, half of the people who would get hit with higher taxes, file their taxes as individuals (crosstalk) business taxes

DIANE SAWYER But is it on the table to talk about, because he campaigned on it, 60 percent of the voters have said that they are ready to raise these taxes. They are ready to have (crosstalk) the wealthier Americans pitch in…

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE JOHN BOEHNER: (crosstalk) I made clear yesterday, that raising tax rates is unacceptable, and frankly, it couldn't even pass the House. (coughs) I'm not sure it could pass the Senate. So the votes aren't there. What I did yesterday was lay out a reasonable, responsible way forward to avoid the fiscal cliff, and that's through putting increased revenues on the table, but through reforming our tax code, and I would do that if the President were serious about solving our spending problem and trying to secure our entitlement programs.

DIANE SAWYER: One million? Would you consider? An increased tax rate with those…(crosstalk)

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE JOHN BOEHNER: Increased tax rates are not the answer…(crosstalk)

DIANE SAWYER: (crosstalk) So they're not going to be on the table no matter what?

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE JOHN BOEHNER: You're increasing taxes on small business people, it's the wrong approach. We can put revenue on the table. We have a tax system that is so complicated, that it costs Americans $500 billion dollars a year just to comply with it.

DIANE SAWYER: But I think there's a difference…

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE JOHN BOEHNER: A fairer, flatter tax code will produce more economic growth, will get our economy moving again, and allow more Americans to get back to work.

DIANE SAWYER: Is there a difference in believing that it's the wrong approach, and still putting it on the table to break the gridlock? Because over and over again, people have been writing us, saying to us, move forward, break the gridlock. Do it.

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE JOHN BOEHNER: The President and I had a very good conversation yesterday. I'm confident that he and I can find the common ground necessary. I laid out an approach yesterday. I laid out a path forward. Now it's time for the White House to begin to lay out some path forward as well.

DIANE SAWYER: So you will talk about it? Even if you believe it's the wrong approach, you'll talk about it?

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE JOHN BOEHNER: Of course we'll talk about it! We talk about all kinds of things we may disagree.

DIANE SAWYER: In your talk with the President, the last time, you talked with the President about a big bargain you've said to Bob Woodward he was "spewing coals, he was so mad" (sic) so yesterday you and he ended the conversation by saying? Are you going to meet?

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE JOHN BOEHNER: The President and I have only had a couple of difficult conversations - and that occurred in July and August of 2011. We've remained cordial, we understand each other and I'm confident that we can work together.

DIANE SAWYER: Is Paul Ryan, Congressman Paul Ryan, going to be right by your side? Do you and he agree now on everything going forward at this crucial time?

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE JOHN BOEHNER: Well I'm glad that Paul Ryan is coming back to the Congress - I would expect that he would continue as Chairman of the Budget Committee - he's - probably nobody in the Congress knows more about pro-growth economic policies than Paul Ryan. I don't think that there's many people in Congress who understand the entitlement crisis that we're facing more than Paul Ryan. I think he'll be an important voice in this discussion and in this debate.

DIANE SAWYER: Is he, because he ran (Boehner coughs) for the Vice Presidency - is he the leader of the Republican party now?

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE JOHN BOEHNER: Oh I wouldn't think so. Paul Ryan's a policy wonk - he's involved in the cause of trying to bring his pro growth economic agenda to America and making sure that we're doing this in a fiscally responsible way.

DIANE SAWYER: I want to go back if I can to the election because there have been a lot of Republican comments since - Rush Limbaugh said we've lost the country, we're outnumbered. Al Cardenas, conservative Al Cardenas has said that the party's gotten - these are his words - "too old, too white, too male." (sic) Is that right?

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE JOHN BOEHNER: Well I think what Republicans need to learn is - how do we speak to all Americans? You know, not just to people who look like us and act like us, but how do we speak to all Americans? Listen, we believe in the American dream, we believe in individual freedom - we believe in empowering all citizens. I think there's a message there that resonates with all Americans but we need to do a much more affective job in communicating.

DIANE SAWYER: How much would you say Governor Romney takes responsibility for those election results and not? How much, was it - what happened in the primaries and what the party?

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE JOHN BOEHNER: Well, I'll let all the political prognosticators figure out what, how the election went and why it went the way it did. Listen, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan did a very nice job carrying our banner and I'm proud of the campaign that they ran, but we lost. The other side did a much more effective job in getting their votes out to the polls - and I'm fond of saying, polls don't decide elections, voters do. And more of their voters showed up than ours. But but having said that, you know I may not like the 5 cards that were dealt to me but those are the cards I've got in my hand. Now my job on behalf of the American people is to find a way to work with my Democrat colleagues and our Democrat President to solve America's problems. If there was one mandate that came out of the election, it was find a way to work together to address our problems.

DIANE SAWYER: So you're ready to sit down now, just to clarify - and talk about everything before January? Not just a bridge?


DIANE SAWYER:…of some kind that enforces the status quo (crosstalk) until later?

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE JOHN BOEHNER: well, lame duck Congresses are not known for doing big things…

DIANE SAWYER: …(crosstalk) but you're ready to sit and talk about it?

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE JOHN BOEHNER: (crosstalk)…and as the Speaker of the House I'm not sure that lame duck Congresses should be doing big things. The American people elected new representatives, they're the ones who ought to be the ones that finalize this. Now I've talked about a bridge, a framework, there are things that we can do in the lame duck to avert the fiscal crisis, but we want to do this the right way, we don't want to rush through this the next 2 or 3 weeks and what do you get? You can't rewrite the tax code the next 2, 3 weeks - and so there's a, lot of possibilities in terms of how we proceed. And I'm confident that we can.

DIANE SAWYER: When will the first meeting be, to begin?


DIANE SAWYER: A couple of other questions about the agenda now. You had said next year that you would repeal the health care vote? That still your mission?

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE JOHN BOEHNER: Well I think the election changes that. It's pretty clear that the President was re-elected, Obamacare is the law of the land. I think there are parts of the health care law that are going to be very difficult to implement and very expensive and at a time when we're trying to find a way to create a path toward a balanced budget, everything has to be on the table.

DIANE SAWYER: But you won't be spending the time next year trying to repeal Obamacare?

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE JOHN BOEHNER: There are certainly maybe parts of it that we believe need to be changed - we may do that, no decisions at this point.

DIANE SAWYER: Immigration?

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE JOHN BOEHNER: It's an important issue that I think ought to be dealt with. This issue has been around far too long and while I believe it's important for us to secure our borders and to enforce our laws, I think a comprehensive approach is long overdue, and I'm confident that the President, myself, others, can find the common ground to take care of this issue once and for all.

DIANE SAWYER: The President has said on the fiscal cliff and on economic issues that he is willing to come wash your car if that's what it takes, he said this before the election - he is willing to come wash your car in order to make sure there is compromise and this is resolved.

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE JOHN BOEHNER: On the issue of the fiscal cliff. I'm the most reasonable, responsible person here in Washington. The President knows this, he knows that he and I can work together, the election's over, now it's time to get to work.

DIANE SAWYER: So what is the big message of this election to families in America, to your family back in Ohio watching?

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE JOHN BOEHNER: The country has big problems. We need solutions, and given the outcome of the election, we're going to have to find a way to work across the aisle to find those solutions.

DIANE SAWYER: Is the Tea Party going to be by your side through this?

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE JOHN BOEHNER: We've got members from all different types, all walks of life, if you will.

DIANE SAWYER: But do you think they come back changed by this election?

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE JOHN BOEHNER: Oh, listen. I think this has been the most mis-reported story of my 2 years as tenure. We don't have a Tea Party Caucus to speak of in the House - all of us who were elected 2010 were supported by the Tea Party. These are ordinary Americans who've taken a more active role in our government, they want solutions - but we've all come a long way over the last 2 years, and I think we all understand each other a lot better.

DIANE SAWYER: So you don't foresee any problems as you head into this negotiation?

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE JOHN BOEHNER: Oh, there are going to be problems, problems dealing with what the President wants - problems dealing with what my members want. Take it one day at a time and do your best.

DIANE SAWYER: And what's the main thing you want said about you, at the end of this first year?

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE JOHN BOEHNER: That we addressed America's problems, and we did so in a responsible, reasonable way.

DIANE SAWYER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.