At a morning breakfast outside his office on Capitol Hill, House Speaker John Boehner told television anchors and reporters covering the President’s State of the Union Address he’s pessimistic about the chances the President will seriously address what Boehner sees as the biggest threat to the future of the country – the country’s long term spending problem… its deficit and debt. Boehner said, “I don’t think he has the guts to do it. He doesn’t have the courage to take on the liberal side of his own party – never has.” In fact, the Speaker said – judging by the tone and tenor of the Inaugural Address, “I would expect tonight to be more partisan.”
Throughout the breakfast, Speaker Boehner referenced the sequester-the across the board spending cuts originally designed to be so unappealing that both sides would agree to a deal to avoid them-. But, when Boehner talked about it, he called it “the President’s sequester.” Pressed on the negative impacts to the economy if these cuts happen – Boehner said, “I don’t like the sequester. I don’t want the sequester. But, this spending issue is the biggest issue that threatens our future. When are we going to get serious about our long term spending problem? When is the President going to propose something instead of the sequester? How about Senate Democrats?” He conceded the economy may take a hit initially but added quote, “If the private sector were to see that we were serious about dealing with our spending problem in Washington, that might instill some confidence.”
Asked about Congress voting again to delay the date that the sequester kicks in, Boehner said, “We’re not moving it.”
Speaker Boehner insisted whatever package comes forward to avoid the sequester it will not have new taxes in it. “The President’s gotten his revenue. Period.” Pressed again – Boehner repeated, “The President’s gotten his revenue.” He said a solution to the sequester will only happen is the President and the Senate Democrats act.
This comes as Senate Democrats are signaling that they will move forward with something to address the sequester in coming days. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s office released remarks he is scheduled to make on the Senate floor today saying quote “Senate Democrats will offer our own solution to the sequester later this week.”
Asked about what is expected to be President Obama’s calls for new “investment” tonight – Boehner said, “More government spending is what that is. If government spending were the tonic for all our ills – this would have been solved a long time ago.” And regarding spending - he said the President added “5 trillion dollars in new debt over the last 4 years. How much further is he going to run us into the sewer?”
Speaker Boehner said he talked to the President at the Inauguration but, “This White House does not engage much with Congress.. on the Presidential level or at the staff level. You can just ask Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid too.” And on the politics for Democrats, Boehner said, “It almost appears the President wants to put moderate Democrats on the line—to shine a light on the fact they are not as liberal as some others. The Obama-Pelosi agenda is not going to help those members.”
When the topic turned to immigration reform, one correspondent started a question with a litany of specifics about a path to citizenship and Boehner responded with, “Slow down. How about a little foreplay. Lots of issue need to be resolved before we get to that.”
But, Boehner insisted the House and Senate “has to come to some agreement on immigration. It’s an issue we HAVE to deal with and deal with now.” He added that a group of Republicans and Democrats have been working on a bipartisan solution for more than four years and on immigration reform.. he is optimistic. He said his biggest fear on it is President Obama. Adding, “Sometimes I think he’d rather have an issue rather than a solution.”
Speaker Boehner touted Republicans “fact checking” the President’s speech tonight real time and sending that out on Twitter and Facebook and other platforms… although Boehner conceded he has never Tweeted. He also touted the Spanish translation of Senator Marco Rubio’s Republican response tonight. And before the breakfast was finished, Senator Rubio made a cameo appearance to “get a cup of coffee”… which he ended up getting in the room next door. Asked if he was nervous, Rubio said, “Not yet.”
More to come throughout the day!
Via Twitter: @BretBaier Good morning! A big day in washington- SOTU day. All sides pre-spin the speech-I'll report what I can from mostly off the record events.