OTR Interviews

Boehner on Growing Pro-Union Protests: I'm Proud of These Governors Who Are Doing Their Job

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," March 2, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Speaker of the House John Boehner wants to slash spending to get our budget on track. But will the Speaker negotiate with Democrats and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid? Speaker of the House John Boehner went "On the Record."


VAN SUSTEREN: Mr. Speaker, nice to see you, sir.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, R-OHIO, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Greta, good to be with you.

VAN SUSTEREN: And I see you have a new office, new job since I've last seen you, big job.

BOEHNER: Big job.

VAN SUSTEREN: How different is it than being minority leader? I mean, what surprises you?

BOEHNER: Well, the decisions you make are real and kind of reverberate throughout the institution, so you got to be a little more cautious about what you say and when you say it. But other than that, it really hasn't changed a great deal. You know, thank goodness there are only 24 hours in a day and only seven days in a week.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is it what you expected?

BOEHNER: Nothing has really surprised me about the job, at least not yet.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK, spending. We have a current national debt of $14.14 trillion. And we now have a new continuing resolution. The president has to sign it. But it's only going to get us through two weeks.

BOEHNER: Well, we've got a spending problem here. We've got a debt problem. First we have to do is we've got to solve the spending problem. And that means getting our arms around the discretionary side, that one third of the budget that funds the government and keeps all the agencies going.

And then in about four to six weeks, we'll begin to deal with next year's budget. We really have to focus in on that two thirds of the budget that's really driving the deficit and the debt to the levels that we see. I've said four months. We need -- it's time to have adult conversation with the American people about the big challenges that face us.

When you look at Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, these are important programs for tens of millions of Americans, but they're not sustainable at their current levels. They're not affordable for our kids and grandkids. We're going to have to make some changes.

But I think the first step is laying out the size of the problem. And here in the coming weeks, I expect you'll see more and more from our team laying out just how big this problem is.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, well, we only have a two-week budget, though, essentially, the continuing resolution that's passed, and so we're really going to -- we're going go right back into this, trying to figure out what to do for the rest of the year. What's the hold-up? Why can't we get a continuing -- why can't we get a budget to carry us through the rest of year?

BOEHNER: Well, understand how we got into this problem. You know, last year, Democrats didn't pass a budget. They didn't do any appropriation bills to fund the government from last October through next September.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why didn't they do that?

BOEHNER: I don't know. You'll have to ask them. All I know is that they funded the government through March the 4th, kind of dropped this in our lap. We did our work several weeks ago when we passed $100 billion worth of spending cuts from what the president requested for this year. And we passed it over to the Senate. They haven't acted.

We decided to move the short-term CR to keep the government open, but while same time cut spending. So we cut $4 billion. And while they moaned and groaned about it, they all seemed to vote for it. And I'm hopeful that the Senate will get serious about finishing out this year. We can't go through this every two weeks. But the House has acted. When is the Senate going to act?

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, you've been sharing, at least today, a few barbs back and forth with Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, you know, at least his office and your office.

BOEHNER: Well, not really. Listen, Senator Reid's got a tough job. I understand he's got a tough job. I got my challenges on our side. But the House has acted. And it's really hard to go into negotiation when the other side doesn't have a position. And I'm hopeful that Senate Democrats will come up with some position so we can begin to have real negotiations. We've had conversations now for weeks, but I don't know where the Senate Democrats are. It becomes a question of how do we work this out?

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, the president has suggested that Vice President Biden speak with the leadership on both sides, the House and the Senate. What do you think of that idea?

BOEHNER: Listen, I think the vice president would better spend his time if he sat down with Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and come up with a Democrat position. Like I said before, it's hard to sit down and negotiate. We've done our work. I know where we are. They know where we are. But we don't know where their position is. But he'd have -- it'd be a far better use of his time.

VAN SUSTEREN: Are you saying that you're negotiating with yourself, essentially, that they have no stated position, that that -- is that what you're saying?

BOEHNER: Yes. They don't have a position. So how do I know where they are and what we should negotiate from and what the right number is? I have no idea.

VAN SUSTEREN: How much wiggle room do you have here in House? Because you certainly have about 87 new freshmen, who seem to be very strong in their position. It doesn't seem like you have a whole lot of wiggle room on your numbers.

BOEHNER: Our goal is to keep the government open and cut spending. The American people know the spending is out of control. We had a GAO report come out yesterday talking about all the duplicative programs in a number of different areas. There is enough government here to cut. It's time to keep -- to save taxpayers money. And it's been interesting to watch this debate over the last couple of months.

When it started, they didn't want to cut anything. Now we got them at least agreeing that we've got to cut spending. The only question is how much.

VAN SUSTEREN: You mentioned the GAO report. Senator Reid said that he was, I don't know, happy or proud or something about Senator Coburn asking for this report. I suspect most Americans think, when they look at both Republicans and the Democrats, it's, like, "Are you kidding?" You didn't know that there was duplication of programs, that there was overlap, that there was waste, there was fraud? How do the people get the point across to the members of both sides? Do something.

BOEHNER: Well, I think the American people spoke loudly last November. They want action, and they want it now. This is just another example of the kind of nonsense that's gone on here for some time. Part of it's driven by the committee process in the House and Senate, part of it driven by the way that government is organized. And I think it's time for us to take a serious look at how we organize so that we don't end up with all of these overlapping and duplicative programs.

VAN SUSTEREN: How does that happen, though? Because if you assign it a committee, we got another committee now to study it. I mean, how do we actually sort of almost, you know, get a knife and sort of, you know, slice out the stuff that's duplicative?

BOEHNER: Well, we can...

VAN SUSTEREN: If we have six programs and they're doing the same thing, I think most people agree it's a bad idea.

BOEHNER: I think we can -- I think we can slice that and solve this problem. But if we don't -- if we don't reorganize the way we do what we do, it's going to happen again and again and again. So I think it's time to step back and take a look. The president during the State of the Union address said that he would submit a plan to Congress on how to reorganize the administrative branch of government. I think that's a good idea, and I'm awaiting his report.

VAN SUSTEREN: When is this plan coming? Has he said when it's coming?

BOEHNER: I don't think he said when, but he made it clear in the State of the Union that he wants to deal with this.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, I think, though, that we sort of hear this all the time from everybody. You know, for years, ever since I was in college, I heard about waste and fraud in Congress and how, you know, different politicians say, I'm going to go...

BOEHNER: In Congress?

VAN SUSTEREN: No, I mean, throughout the government is what I meant. I think there's a lot of criticism of people that -- about waste and fraud, and you know, when someone's going to get to Washington, he or she going to clean it up, and it doesn't get cleaned up.

BOEHNER: It's hard to get your arms around, and again, mostly driven by the fact that we've got agencies that in some cases do a lot of the same things. And why do we have this other agency doing the same thing another agency is doing? And we've got committees here. There are 122 job -- or math and science programs that are in 23 different agencies.

Now, listen, we're all interested in having more mathematicians, more scientists, but this makes no sense. I took this project on when I was the chairman of the Educational Workforce Committee. It's time to bring this down. But I only had jurisdiction over a couple of them. All the other committees had them. And this is where we get into this problem, too many committees with overlapping jurisdiction.

VAN SUSTEREN: So you're going to get rid of that?

BOEHNER: Got a plan in mind.

VAN SUSTEREN: Plan in mind? OK, good! All right, now, in terms of the plan, the GOP plan, in terms of cutting, Federal Reserve chair Ben Bernanke said today that the House GOP spending plan would likely cost a couple hundred thousand jobs, a number he said he -- (INAUDIBLE) not trivial and he didn't have exact number. Mark Zandi of Moody's says -- he's an economist -- says that it would slash 700,000 jobs, and Goldman Sachs -- they say that the GOP plan is going to cut the GDP by 2 percent. That seems rather bleak.

BOEHNER: These are all of the people who thought the stimulus plan two years ago was a great idea and would help create jobs in America. It hasn't happened.

VAN SUSTEREN: So they're dead wrong?

BOEHNER: I've got John Taylor of Stanford University and 47 other economists suggesting that cutting spending will lead to a better environment for job creation in America. Listen, we've got a spending problem. We've got to cut spending. The more spending we cut is the more money that's available in the private sector to help create jobs.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you think the president think there's a spending problem, I mean, when you sit down and talk to him, or does he have a different ideology...

BOEHNER: I talked to him yesterday.

VAN SUSTEREN: And what'd he say?

BOEHNER: I think he understands that we have a spending problem.

VAN SUSTEREN: So did he have an idea? Did he say, Mr. Speaker, this is what I think we should do?

BOEHNER: No, we didn't get that specific, but I -- while don't want to get into the details of my conversation with the president, I do think he understands there's a spending problem.

VAN SUSTEREN: How often do you talk to the president?

BOEHNER: Oh, every couple weeks or so.

VAN SUSTEREN: How about to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid?

BOEHNER: A little more often.

VAN SUSTEREN: Like, daily?

BOEHNER: Not quite yet.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is it warm and fuzzy or is it cold and chilly?

BOEHNER: I've got a very good relationship with the Senate Democrat leader. He's got a tough job to do. I understand he's got a tough job. I got my own -- I got my own issues over here in trying to get things done. But I'm hopeful that we'll be able to get last year's work finished so that we can get on with this year's work.

VAN SUSTEREN: The Defense of Marriage Act -- the president has said that he's not going to enforce it or is not going to -- he's not going to fight it in the courts, the challenges to it. You or at least the GOP on this side has said that you may hire a special counsel to do the job that the federal government -- the executive branch won't do. Are you going to hire someone?

BOEHNER: DOMA is the law of the land. It passed overwhelming in both the House and the Senate. And I think it's outrageous for the president to say, Well, we're not going to enforce it. It's the law of the land. It's the job of the Justice Department to defend the work of our government. And I just think it's outrageous. We're looking at our options, what's available to us to intervene. The short -- the long and short of this is that we are going to intervene. The question is how do we do it.

VAN SUSTEREN: Have you had any conversations with the executive branch, with the attorney general or the president about that?


VAN SUSTEREN: So everyone's going to find out when, later this week, what...

BOEHNER: I'm hopeful we'll have an answer here in the next couple of days.


VAN SUSTEREN: Now, you aren't finished hearing from Speaker John Boehner. Straight ahead, the speaker talks Wisconsin, unions and war. Yes, he says it is a war in Mexico. No sugarcoating from the speaker on that.


VAN SUSTEREN: We continue with Speaker of the House John Boehner.


VAN SUSTEREN: I take it you're watching what's going on in the state of Wisconsin.


VAN SUSTEREN: And your thoughts...

BOEHNER: And Ohio.

VAN SUSTEREN: And Ohio. That's right, your home state.

BOEHNER: You know, these governors have constitutional mandates that they have to have a balanced budget. They've got all kinds of issues. And what I really find interesting is that we got governors now willing to stand up and stop the gimmicks, stop the game playing, and confronting the problems that are facing their states. It's not my job to tell them how to do their job. It's not my job to tell the state legislature how to do its job. But I think they're doing what the people of their states have asked them to do, and that is, let's look at the problems. Let's take them straight on. Let's have clear talk about why we have these problems. And so I'm proud of these governors who are doing the job they were elected to do.

VAN SUSTEREN: I suppose if the job market weren't so grim, there'd be a lot -- I mean, people were working and paying more money into the treasuries of the states and the federal, we wouldn't be having this horrible battle. I mean, it -- I mean, it really -- it does boil down to that our economy really needs to get rolling.

BOEHNER: It does. We can't cut our way to economic prosperity and we can't cut enough to balance the budget. The third part of this is that we have to have real economic growth. And you can't have real economic growth if you're raising taxes, if you're imposing new costly job-killing mandates out of all these federal agencies, which is going on all over this town. What we need to have is a moratorium on new regulations so that the private sector has some room to breathe and begin to reinvest in our economy.

VAN SUSTEREN: In terms of the cuts, I mean, it's always difficult to decide what gets cut. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is concerned about aid being cut to foreign countries who we're trying to essentially make our friends and help them so they don't -- you know, so they're not breeding grounds for terrorism against us. Secretary Gates is worried about the Defense Department. What do you say to those two when their budgets get cut?

BOEHNER: Well, we're not going to cut indiscriminately. And I think the secretary of state has some valid arguments about the some of the foreign aid that we do, in fact, provide. I think secretary of defense has a very solid position that operating under a continuing resolution drives up his cost of doing business. We'd certainly like to get this defense bill finished. We did our work in the House. We've sent it to the Senate.

VAN SUSTEREN: You're waiting to hear.

BOEHNER: Why don't they do it?

VAN SUSTEREN: Mexico -- we talk about Mexico a lot at 10:00 o'clock on Fox News because we've been down there. Is that a war going on in Mexico?

BOEHNER: It's a very big war. You know, it's a war that, frankly, had been ignored by previous administrations in Mexico until President Calderon came into office and has really taken the battle to the narcoterrorists. It is a very big fight. It's -- it's not being won. But I'm going to meet with President Calderon tomorrow to express my support for his willingness to take on the traffickers and to try to save his country. It's a very serious problem on our southern border.

VAN SUSTEREN: Any idea? I mean, what can we do -- I mean, what can we do to fight this war? What -- what can the United States do? What should we do?

BOEHNER: We have been very helpful to the Mexican government in terms of supplying information and other resources to help them fight the traffickers. But when you look at the amount of money that's involved in drug trafficking and the amount of money that these people have -- they've got better equipment than the Mexican military. So we've got to continue to work with President Calderon because it's having a big effect on our country. And if he doesn't win this fight, it'll be even a bigger problem here in America.

VAN SUSTEREN: Mr. Speaker, thank you, sir.

BOEHNER: Thank you.

VAN SUSTEREN: Nice to see you.

BOEHNER: Nice to see you.