Published May 06, 2007
WASHINGTON – The following is a partial transcript of the May 6, 2007, edition of "FOX News Sunday With Chris Wallace":
"FOX NEWS SUNDAY" HOST CHRIS WALLACE: Joining us now, the top Republican in the House, Minority Leader John Boehner.
And, Congressman, welcome back to "FOX News Sunday."
HOUSE MINORITY LEADER JOHN BOEHNER: Chris, good to be with you.
WALLACE: Let's start with this search for a compromise on Iraq war funding.
The Republican leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, as well as your number two man in the House, Roy Blunt, are both talking about attaching this idea of political benchmarks to a spending bill with the possibility of cutting off not military aid, but foreign aid, if the Iraqi politicians fail to meet these political benchmarks.
Could you support that?
BOEHNER: I don't know. I'm clearly for benchmarks. I had a benchmark proposal I introduced in January with a number of my colleagues that laid out benchmarks.
It laid out a way to measure the progress in Iraq. It required the president to report to Congress every 30 days. And the idea behind it was to try to measure the progress, intervene when you need to, to try to ensure success.
I used to run a small business. I owned a small business. I have benchmarks every month, but if I didn't meet the benchmarks and if I missed the profit margin, I didn't shut down the business. I didn't yank the funds and close up the door.
I tried to figure out, "Well, what do I need to do in order to meet those benchmarks?" And that's the whole point. I'm for benchmarks that are for success. I'm not for benchmarks with artificial timelines, yanking funds, trying to ensure that there's failure in Iraq.
WALLACE: So you would oppose benchmarks with teeth.
BOEHNER: I just don't think that's something that makes a lot of sense here. I'm for benchmarks. Let's measure the progress. Every month, you know, the administration can figure out, "All right, how do we want to go here?"
But at the end of the day, we have to negotiate this with our colleagues across the aisle and with the White House, and I think those negotiations are much better done there than they are here.
WALLACE: I don't know that I necessarily agree with that, Congressman, but...
BOEHNER: Well, the last time I saw you, you don't have a vote.
WALLACE: That's right, but we like to do it here.
BOEHNER: I know.
WALLACE: In any case, some antiwar Democrats say that they're going to vote against any measure that doesn't start to end the war, start to pull troops out.
Are you willing to provide Republican votes if the Democrats need that in order to pass this compromise?
BOEHNER: I've made it clear to the Democrat leadership on Capitol Hill that if they're willing to do the right thing, fund the troops with a clean bill, without all the excess spending that's in the bill, Republicans will be there to work with them and to put a bill on the president's desk. It's time to support our troops.
WALLACE: But what if it isn't — if it's a true compromise — forget the issue of the pork barrel spending, although I know that's a real issue. But let's say it does have benchmarks in it. If that's what you need...
BOEHNER: If they have Boehner-type benchmarks in there, I'll clearly support it. I mean, I've introduced a bill that said I would.
But we want a clean bill. We don't want artificial deadlines. We don't want handcuffs on our generals. We don't want artificial measures in there to try to ensure failure. Iraq is very important. And we need to win in Iraq.
WALLACE: Members of the Iraqi parliament are apparently at this point considering whether or not to take a two-month recess, basically take the summer off, while American troops continue to fight and die on the front lines.
How will your members react if they go ahead with this two-month recess? What message would you like to send to the Iraqi parliament?
BOEHNER: Well, they've not been too happy about this war. This recess has been scheduled for some time. What we're really hoping is that the Iraqi parliament can deal with those important issues that they have to deal with to try to ensure their own success.
And whether it's the passage of their oil law, the redistribution of the oil wealth around Iraq, the Baathification law that they're looking at, the unification efforts, we're hoping they'll get their work finished.
But at the end of the day, they've got to make these decisions on their own behalf.
WALLACE: Are you saying that you and you think the Republican caucus would accept a two-month recess?
BOEHNER: Well, I can tell you — I just said members would not — they're not happy about the word of it. I think the Iraqi parliament is reassessing their district work period.
You know, we have district work periods where we go back and work with our constituents. I'm sure they have the same type of activity there.
WALLACE: I know, but they don't have Americans fighting in the front lines defending them.
BOEHNER: Well, what we're really hoping is that they'll get their work accomplished to help strengthen their country so that they can begin to provide for the safety and security of the Iraqi people.
WALLACE: Some of your members, looking ahead to 2008 — and there's always another election — are beginning to worry about backing the president's policy.
Take a look at this, if you will, from a senior Republican, Congressman Ray LaHood, who has been a big supporter of the president. This is what he says. "Republicans are going to give Bush an opportunity, but if it isn't working in September, a lot of members will be very nervous."
If, Congressman, we don't see progress by this fall, will some of your Republican members jump ship?
BOEHNER: We've had great unity all year, in spite of what happened in the election, in supporting the president's effort. General Petraeus was approved by the Senate 84-0. His plan was on full display during his confirmation hearings.
And what really irritates our Republican members are the Democrats aren't letting General Petraeus have — his plan have a chance to succeed.
We don't even have all of the 30,000 additional troops in Iraq yet. And so we're supporting the president. We want this plan to have a chance of success. Over the course of the next three months or four months, we'll have some idea how well the plan is working.
Early signs are indicating there is clearly some success on a number of fronts. But by the time — I think Ray is right. By the time we get to September, October, members are going to want to know how well this is working, and if it isn't, what's Plan B.
WALLACE: So you really think September is about the point at which members' patience will wear out?
BOEHNER: Well, I think this fall, people are going to want to assess how well is the plan working. Are there changes necessary.
And I think the Bush administration on a monthly basis will be looking at how is the plan working, are there changes necessary to the plan.
At the end of the day, Chris, Iraq is not about a civil war. Iraq is about Al Qaeda and 76 other terrorist groups operating there, and all of their effort is aimed at defeating the United States.
Earlier on your program, you had — Senator Dodd talked about this being a civil war. It is not a civil war. There is some sectarian violence between the Sunni and Shia, most of it being stirred up by the Iranians.
But it's Al Qaeda and their affiliates who have made Iraq the central front in their war with us. And we have to remember they started this, not us.
And if we don't take on Al Qaeda there, in Iraq, where do we take on Al Qaeda? Where do we take on radical Islam who is hellbent on killing Americans and our allies?
WALLACE: Let's move, if we can, to domestic politics. House Democrats passed their agenda, what they called Six for '06, in the first 100 hours of the legislation session.
BOEHNER: Their campaign slogan...
WALLACE: Well, forgive me.
BOEHNER: ... that they had to turn into some kind of a legislative package.
WALLACE: All right. Well, let me — but they did raise the minimum wage. They did reform homeland security. They passed bills negotiating lower Medicare drug prices.
On the other hand, so far none of these things passed by House Democrats has become law. I know you're always in the business of giving Speaker Pelosi some helpful advice. What's the problem?
BOEHNER: Well, the problem is there is no vision for their party. There's no agenda for their party, and all we have to do is look at their...
WALLACE: Well, that was a vision, wasn't it, sir?
BOEHNER: ... policy in Iraq. They have no policy on Iraq other than to give up and bring the troops home.
And as this presidential nominating process continues to heat up, and you've got all these Democrats, especially in the Senate, running for president, they're being pulled further and further to the left by these antiwar and liberal groups.
When I hear my good friend Chris Dodd talk about supporting the Feingold proposal, that would begin to cut off funds almost immediately and redeploy our troops, that's not my friend Chris Dodd. That's not who he is.
But they're continuing to be pulled to the left. They have no plan. And when you look at their domestic agenda, there is none. There's none.
WALLACE: All right. Let's move on, because we have limited time, and I want to talk to you about Republican politics.
You have said, as the House leader, that you're not going to get involved in the presidential race. You're not going to endorse anyone until your party has a nominee, but I'm sure that you're watching from the sidelines.
So let me ask you, will your party nominate someone like Rudy Giuliani, who says that he's OK if Roe vs. Wade is repealed and also OK if it isn't repealed?
How tough for someone who supports a woman's right to choose to win the nomination of a party that has a strong pro-life platform?
BOEHNER: Well, I think it's an uphill fight on that issue. But I think a lot of Republican voters see Rudy Giuliani as competent and able to do the job.
But there are a lot of good candidates out there. What really drives me...
WALLACE: No, but let me just ask you...
BOEHNER: ... up a wall is why all of this is going on now. This started the morning after the '06 election. You know, the American people need a break from all of this. I mean, I know you all need something here at FOX News to do every day.
WALLACE: Don't blame it on us.
BOEHNER: I know, but this whole — this debate the other night — everybody asked me, "Are you going to watch the debate?" I said, "It's May." What could be said that can be relevant?
WALLACE: All right. Listen. We're not going to put the genie in the bottle, but let me ask you about a couple of other people.
More than 50 House Republicans, including five of your seven leaders, met recently with Fred Thompson. How much enthusiasm in the Republican caucus for Thompson?
BOEHNER: Well, I thought that that was fascinating that that many of our members, basically 25 percent of our conference, would show up to meet with Fred Thompson.
And it kind of indicates the same thing that I'm feeling as I go around the country. There's some interest in a number of the candidates who are out there, but there seems to be some easiness and some desire for somebody else.
And so I think there's clearly some interest there. But this is a long process. And the process will weed out those that don't have a chance and this long process will strengthen our nominee at the end of it.
WALLACE: And very briefly, what about Newt Gingrich? You've spent a lot of time with him.
BOEHNER: Newt's a friend. He's got a great — he's got an 800-pound brain, as I like to say, and could make things rather interesting.
WALLACE: Congressman Boehner, we want to thank you so much. Thanks for coming in. Please come back. And don't blame us that the election started so early, although we do enjoy it.
BOEHNER: I'm sure you do.