Published July 12, 2011
The following is a transcript of a Special Report interview between Fox News' Bret Baier and House Speaker John Boehner.
From there to here, joining me now to discuss today's developments, where we are, House Speaker John Boehner.
Thank you for coming in, Mr. Speaker.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Bret, good to be here.
BAIER: Well, this was the longest meeting yet. It ended just minutes ago.
What can you tell us about it?
BOEHNER: Well, I think the big issue for today was Mr. Cantor and I, the majority leader in the House, pressed, really pressed the president for, you know, where is his plan?
We've talked about a lot of possibilities. I mean he and I had conversations for a couple of weeks. But we've never really seen the whole plan and what they're really willing to do.
You know, one of the problems that we got into late last week and that culminated on Saturday when I had finally decided that working with him privately wasn't working, is that, you know, they'd have some ideas, but they never would quite put them on paper.
Now, they talk about making substantive reforms in the entitlement programs, but never can quite get there. That and the fact is that they were continuing to insist on us raising taxes.
And so I think it's time for the president to put his plan on the table. And let's let the American people see just what the president is proposing. You can't go out there and talk about some $4 trillion deal, you know, an agreement to substantively change the fiscal situation here in Washington without any facts.
BAIER: Today, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell put forward what he said was a last-ditch proposal. We just detailed it in a story earlier.
How do you view that proposal?
BOEHNER: Listen, I understand Mitch's frustration, you know, because we're all frustrated by where we are. And Mitch, I think, pointed out that this was -- his idea is if we can't get there, none of us believe that we ought to default on the full faith and credit of the United States government.
And so I think that idea -- and there are other ideas out there in terms of backup plans in case we can't come to an agreement.
BAIER: Doesn't that undercut you?
BOEHNER: Oh, not at all. I think everybody believes there would -- there needs to be a backup plan if we are unable to come to an agreement. And, frankly, I think Mitch has done good work.
BAIER: Well, Senator Reid said he's open to Senator McConnell's plan. So if the White House says -- or the president says you know what, I like Senator McConnell's plan and you can't get it through the House, isn't that isolating House Republicans?
BOEHNER: Well, again, this was a backup plan. We all hope and believe that we've got to deal with this as responsible Americans. Listen, we've got a problem, a current spending problem and a debt problem. And I believe that -- and I think Mr. Cantor, my majority leader, I do believe that Mitch McConnell and Jon Kyl all share the same view, that we need the biggest spending cuts possible and making sure that there are no tax increases on the table.
BAIER: Why haven't House Republicans moved forward their own plan?
BOEHNER: Well, we have a number of our members who just don't believe that they should ever vote to increase the debt ceiling. And --
BAIER: So how are you going to get anything through?
BOEHNER: I think it's pretty clear that -- there's one option, one option that my -- our members are talking about, and that is -- and I brought it up with the president today. And that is linking the increase in the debt ceiling to real enforcement mechanisms, real budget mechanisms, one of them being a balanced budget amendment to the Constituent.
Now, most Americans believe that Washington's budget ought to be balanced every year. There's been a big effort to -- to get a balanced budget amendment passed. And I think it's one of those ideas where, that if you could get two thirds of the House or two thirds of the Senate to support a balanced budget amendment, it would certainly ease the way for the kind of spending cuts we would get now.
BAIER: But is there a mechanism that you can link to something big like that down the road and trust that it's going to actually happen?
I mean people -- lawmakers have been pointing to Ronald Reagan and his deal back in the '80s --
BOEHNER: Well --
BAIER: -- that didn't turn out that way.
BOEHNER: -- well, this would -- this -- the -- this increase in the debt ceiling would not go to the president until a balanced budget amendment had been sent to the states. That means that it had -- would have to pass the House by two thirds and the Senate by two thirds.
BAIER: Do you think -- do you believe the president when he said today that he cannot guarantee that Social Security checks would go out August 3rd without an extension?
BOEHNER: Well, I don't know what to believe. You know, there's a -- the Treasury secretary is going to have options in terms of who should be paid and who shouldn't. And, yes, there are some debts that have to be rolled over. But there's going to be money available on August the 3rd. And I think it's way too early to be making some types of -- of veiled threats like that.
BAIER: Do you think that threat and the possibility of letters going out to beneficiaries spooked Senator McConnell?
BOEHNER: I do not believe that at all. I just think that -- we don't want this to happen. We don't want Social Security recipients to have to wait a day any longer for their checks. But it really strikes the importance of what it is that we're doing. We have made promises to ourselves that our kids and grandkids can't afford. I've said all year, I think this is the moment and this is the opportunity for us, as Americans, to tackle our long-term fiscal issues.
BAIER: You said today, raising the debt ceiling is President Obama's problem. That, as you can imagine, sparked a lot of reaction from Democrats.
Senator Reid said he was stunned by the statement.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: Acting like adults does not mean walking out of the room every time talks get serious. The Republicans have done it time and time again in the last few years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: So the conventional wisdom, Mr. Speaker, is that over the weekend, there was this deal between you and the president. You were very close. And then you blew it up.
BOEHNER: No --
BAIER: You walked away.
BOEHNER: No, that --
BAIER: So what --
BOEHNER: No, no, no, no --
BAIER: -- what happened?
BOEHNER: The premise --
BAIER: What happened?
BOEHNER: We -- I said on Friday that we were not close, that we were in conversations. But I made it clear, we were this far apart on -- on Friday. On Saturday, we were even further apart. And that's when I decided there was no reason for me to continue to be in these talks. They were never serious about taking the kind of structural reforms to our entitlement programs that will preserve them for the long-term.
BAIER: The other story --
BOEHNER: And they continued to insist on raising taxes.
BAIER: The other story line is that you were ready to make a deal on taxes and then House Majority Leader Eric Cantor pulled you back --
BOEHNER: No, no, no.
BAIER: Was there any daylight between you and the majority leader?
BOEHNER: No. Eric and I have been in the same place all the way through. We want the largest possible increases to make sure these programs are sustained for the long-term, so we can save Social Security, save Medicare, save Medicaid, without raising taxes on the very people that we expect to invest in our economy and to create jobs.
BAIER: So what is next?
What if you don't get a deal?
BOEHNER: I don't know. This -- this is how serious this is. I think the president understands how serious it is and so do my colleagues. But I don't think that we can miss this opportunity. I think it's important for us to do -- do this.
But if you look at what's going on in Europe right now, the reason they're having the problems they're having over there is because they had failed to take the steps necessary to put their fiscal house in order. That's what America has to do. And we need to do it now.
BAIER: Straight up or down, how many votes do you think you can lose on your side to get a debt ceiling increase raised?
BOEHNER: It really depends on how the package is put together and how much members know about it. There's no way you could make that prediction on -- on any given set of assumptions at this point.
BAIER: You lost 59 in the continuing resolution. You have -- it seems like there's more than that number opposed to it now.
BOEHNER: I would -- I would agree with that statement. There are a lot of members who just don't believe that raising the debt ceiling, under any circumstances, makes sense to them.
BAIER: If the deal does not have major spending cuts, not now, none -- not in the out years or does not include entitlement reform in some way, do you think you risk alienating a large portion of the Republican voting base that you put you in this position in 2010?
BOEHNER: I don't think such a proposal could pass the House in any way, shape or form, because you have a number of members who will never vote to raise the debt ceiling. And you have an, I think, a large bloc of members who believe that this really is the moment to put our fiscal house in order and to make sure that we transform these entitlement programs so that they're survivable for the long-term.
And I think that's where the bloc of votes really are.
BAIER: So Senator McConnell's plan, in your estimation, could never pass the House?
BOEHNER: I don't know that. Again, Senator McConnell said that it's a last ditch, backup plan. When we get here a couple of weeks from now, we may be looking for all kinds of ideas about how we can make sure that we -- we meet our obligations as a country to -- to the debts that have already been piled up.
BAIER: What would a financial disruption look like after August 2nd, if the debt ceiling is not raised, in your mind?
What would it look like?
BOEHNER: Nobody really knows what would happen. And I don't think anybody in the world believes that the United States is going to default on our debt. Nobody believes that.
But given what's going on in Europe, something could spook the market and missing August 2nd could spook the market. And you could have a real catastrophe. Nobody wants that to happen. But I'll say this. As dangerous as that -- as that may be, I still think this is the time to do this. Making the tough decisions today, not kicking the can down the road, is the right thing to do for the country.
BAIER: Do you believe -- you've been in these back door meetings. You've seen what the president has said publicly.
Do you believe he's being an honest broker?
BOEHNER: I think the president is trying -- he's trying to get there. But their insistence upon us raising taxes is continuing to prevent us from getting this done. And his willingness to do as much entitlement reform as possible in order to make sure that these programs are solid and sustainable for the next 25 years.
BAIER: Do you trust him?
BOEHNER: I do.
BAIER: Mr. Speaker, thank you very much.
We look forward to hearing what's the next step.
BOEHNER: So I do -- so do I.