OTR Interviews

Boehner: The election in November will be a 'referendum on the president's economic policies'

House speaker sounds off on intel leaks, dysfunction in Congress, the key issue in the presidential race and whom he favors as Romney's VP pick


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," July 26, 2012. 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, the fight over extending the Bush-era tax cuts getting down and dirty. But is it getting anywhere? Yesterday, the Democratically controlled Senate passed a bill renewing the tax cuts, but only for people earning less than $250,000 a year. For everyone else, tax rates will go up on January 1st. So now it is the Republican-led House's move.

We spoke with Speaker Boehner earlier today.


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

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

VAN SUSTEREN: OK, Senate voted yesterday. So what is your plan here in the House?

BOEHNER: Well, the House next week will vote to stop the looming tax hike scheduled to take effect on January the 1st. The president's plan would cost about 700,000 new jobs that wouldn't be created or could be lost by taxing small businesses.

The House will not do that. The House will extend all of the existing tax rates. We've got 8 percent unemployment. We've got 41 months of it. This is not the time -- the time to be raising taxes on American small businesses.

VAN SUSTEREN: Will there be any deals made down the road, like, people who make more than $5 million or something, I mean, the big numbers, the bigger numbers than a million, at some point in order to get a deal?


VAN SUSTEREN: Or is this no? Or is this an absolutely no tax hike as to anybody?

BOEHNER: This is not the time to be raising taxes on small business owners. So we are not going to do it.

VAN SUSTEREN: That means nobody, no way, never, ever...

BOEHNER: We are going to pass our bill next week. The Senate passed what I'll call an unconstitutional bill. All tax bills have to start in the House. And we would hope they would take up the House-passed bill.

VAN SUSTEREN: You say they hope they'll take it up, but you're going to pass your bill next week. You have the numbers. That's clear. It's then goes over to the Senate. You don't expect the Senate to adopt your bill, do you?

BOEHNER: Wouldn't look that way, but hope springs eternal.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK. So then where does that leave the American taxpayer? You're sort of at loggerheads with two different bills, very different bills.

BOEHNER: As the president would remind me from to time, that's what elections are for. But American taxpayers shouldn't have to wait until after the election to know what the tax rates are going to be for next year. In addition to that, the Alternative Minimum Tax for 2012 has not been extended.

And so instead of having the four million Americans affected by the Alternative Minimum Tax in January, it'll be 30 million Americans. And you want to see a real tax increase, this is about a $4 trillion tax increase if we don't come to an agreement on this bill.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, that leaves everybody sort of sputtering, trying to decide what to do because it's not going to happen either until the lame duck session or sometime into January.

You know, everyone -- so we're all on hold. Is there any way -- let me give you a suggestion. How about calling up Senator Harry Reid and President Obama and say, We got -- we got this August recess, everybody. Let's try to do something now so this prediction for the small business people, and every American...


BOEHNER: We've been making this case all year that we ought to extend all of the current tax rates. It's an issue in the presidential campaign. There's no reason to wait. I'm ready, willing and able to sit down with the president or Harry Reid tomorrow and to resolve this issue for the American people.

VAN SUSTEREN: So if they would agree to give up August and to sit down here and everyone put his nose to the grindstone...

BOEHNER: Well, I...

VAN SUSTEREN: ... you're game?

BOEHNER: I'd be happy to do it.

VAN SUSTEREN: So what's the problem? I mean, like, you know, why can't this -- I mean, get this resolved...

BOEHNER: Greta, Greta...

VAN SUSTEREN: ... because we sit and watch.

BOEHNER: Greta, the founders gave us this system of government. It may not be perfect, but it really does work better than anyplace else in the world. And the American people gave us divided government. You know, Republicans control the House. Democrats control the Senate. Democrats control the White House. And so we've got a recipe here for being at loggerheads.

But I think it's our job -- even though we may have some very strong opinions, and opposite opinions, our job is still to find common ground and to do our best for the American people. But you can't -- you can't do the tango by yourself. You've got to have a willing partner, and I've not had a willing partner.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK, well, it -- a couple things. One is that, you know, leadership, you know, the three leaders, the House, the Senate and the White House -- they have a tough job -- I realize the loggerheads, I realize the divided government. But that still is sort of what leaders need to do. That's the first thing.

The second thing is that we know it can be done because every time you all get pushed up against a deadline, that suddenly, burning the midnight oil, there's some deal cut, something happens. We just don't have that deadline right now. And so the business people and the American people sort of sit on the sidelines month after month after month, hoping for some guidance.

BOEHNER: That's why I don't want to wait. We don't need to be up against a deadline in order to act. But if I can't get Harry Reid to sit down and negotiate, or the president to sit down and negotiate, I'm not going to sit here and negotiate with myself.

VAN SUSTEREN: The bill in the Senate essentially adds about -- it's enough to finance the government for eight days, approximately, the -- letting the tax rate go back to where it was for people who make over $250,000 a year.

Any thoughts on how we're going to fund the other 357 dollars -- 357 days out of the year? Because that's only eight days.

BOEHNER: Well, listen, this is why we need to extend all the current tax rates because you're just kidding yourself. The American people don't need to be paying higher taxes at a time when our economy is not doing well.

You know, the president is out there running around, campaigning, avoiding sitting down with his own jobs council. He hasn't met with them for over six months. And if you look at the report that the president's jobs council put out, guess what? It supports many of the ideas that we've passed in House and sent over to the Senate.

VAN SUSTEREN: But a meeting with the jobs council doesn't really get us anywhere. He needs to meet with Senator Harry Reid and with you and work something out. The jobs council can't implement policy or law.

BOEHNER: We've got 30 bills sitting over in the United States Senate that would help our -- get our economy moving again and get the American people back to work.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is there -- do you ever talk to the president? Does he ever call you up or say, you know, Let's work this out? Or are you able to call him?

BOEHNER: I guess I could, but I haven't heard from the president in months.

VAN SUSTEREN: What -- do you...

BOEHNER: He's busy campaigning!

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, why...

BOEHNER: He doesn't have time to call me!

VAN SUSTEREN: Why don't you give him a call? Maybe just as a lark that he'll return your call and say, Yes, that's a good idea. Let's work...

BOEHNER: I'm sure -- I'm sure he'll be polite enough to return the call. And I -- sure, I can call him.

VAN SUSTEREN: How about Senator Harry Reid? I mean, because I -- there are bills, I understand, that are stalled over at the Senate. Some, they think, are just sort of political salvos that you send over there, but some are bills that really need to be discussed and debated and resolved. Does he have -- does he ever talk to you?

BOEHNER: I do talk to Senator Reid more often, and our staffs talk pretty regularly about trying to move things through this process. It's a very difficult process that the founders gave us. But my job is to keep it moving on behalf of the American people.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, what -- what's your prediction of what's actually going to happen? Take me through this tax bill. I mean, where are we going to end up?

BOEHNER: Well, it doesn't look to me likely that anything will get accomplished before the election. It's unfortunate, but I just don't see any willingness on the part of the Democrat-controlled Senate or President Obama to try to resolve this issue before then.

VAN SUSTEREN: If it's done, though, in the lame duck session -- and I realize that the deadline for the taxes going up is the first of the year - - if it's done in a lame duck, then elections really don't count that much because there will be people voting on behalf of the American people who have been removed from office or retiring or whatever.

So we'll get a lot of -- we have the lame duck people, people who will not be answering to the American people.

BOEHNER: Well, that is the case. It's unfortunate that we're -- we would be in that position. That's why we ought to be doing it now. There's no reason to wait.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, let me turn to the issue of leaks. Admiral William McRaven, who is the head of Special Operations Command, has said that leaks -- the leaks that have happened have put lives at risk and may ultimately cost American lives unless there's an effective crackdown.

Then the chairman of the House intel committee, Chairman Mike Rogers, told Bret Baier, essentially, that the White House is not cooperating.

BOEHNER: This is very serious problem. And I agree with the admiral's prediction that, frankly, we have put lives in danger. While I'm not going to disclose any classified information, I can say this, that the type of information that has been leaked is information that was not spread on a -- in a very wide circle. This was not something that came from some underling somewhere.

And so there is great concern on my part as to where these leaks came from and why they were leaked. And I would hope that the administration would cooperate with the special counsels that have been appointed so that we can get to the bottom of this. It's a very serious problem.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you believe the leaks came from the White House?

BOEHNER: I don't know where the leaks came from, but they clearly came at a very high level.

VAN SUSTEREN: What does that mean, a high level?

BOEHNER: Well, when you've got classified information, depending upon the -- how classified it is, there's certain circles that -- of people who are entitled to see that information. I -- you know, I see an awful lot of information. But when you look at the types of information that have been leaked, this is not something that was offered to a wide array of people.

VAN SUSTEREN: There are a couple different kinds of leaks. There are the leaks that are done accidentally and there are leaks that are done deliberately for political advantage. Do you have any idea which this one is and what...

BOEHNER: No. No. I don't have any information that -- that -- to suggest why the information was leaked.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, some of your colleagues have said that it's political.

BOEHNER: I understand that.

VAN SUSTEREN: And you take no position on that?

BOEHNER: No. I don't know, and I don't want to -- I don't want to sit here and speculate as to why the information was leaked. All I know is that it is going to put American lives in danger and is going to -- has disclosed some of our methods of operation, which our adversaries don't need to know.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you have any opposition to the way it's being investigated? There are two U.S. attorneys appointed. One is a U.S. attorney appointed by President Obama, the other one appointed by President Bush 43, both having to answer to the attorney general in the chain of command.

Do you have any objections to it being investigated that way, or do you think that a special counsel of some sort should be appointed?

BOEHNER: No, I think a more independent counsel would have been a more appropriate way to proceed. The president didn't agree with that.

At one point, I thought that Congress itself, the leaders, along with the intelligence panels in both the House and Senate, would, in a bipartisan way, appoint someone on our behalf to investigate this. But unfortunately, we couldn't get to a bipartisan agreement.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is there any way to detect the speed of this? Because if Admiral McRaven is correct that this could cost lives, we really need to move fast and to figure out where the leak was to prevent it from happening before. If it's the politics, you know, that's just sort of the political...

BOEHNER: Look, Greta, you know...

VAN SUSTEREN: ... food fight that goes...

BOEHNER: You know how these investigations are undertaken. There are hundreds and hundreds of interviews that have to be done. All of that information is kept by the special prosecutors, and everything is in the dark until they're ready to issue their report. And so I don't expect that we're going to see anything soon.

VAN SUSTEREN: I guess, though, that -- I mean, if it's as high up as people think -- there are only a handful of people who are privy to that information, or should be. And so, you know, it should be -- it could be a swifter investigation than what might otherwise occur.

BOEHNER: Yes, it could be. But again, I don't -- I don't -- I don't have information and I'm not going to speculate on how many people had access to the information, or for that matter, why it was leaked.

VAN SUSTEREN: Your prediction on the economy, 8.2 percent unemployment last two months. It has been very sluggish. There aren't any, you know, hugely positive indicators...

BOEHNER: Well, that's the official unemployment rate. When you look at -- the rate's down because a lot of people have just given up looking for work. You know, the real unemployment rate is almost 15 percent.

And then if you look at black unemployment, Hispanic unemployment, you're into the high teens and low 20s. And then look at the college graduates, recent college graduates, where you've got 50 percent of those graduates either unemployed or underemployed.

We have a serious problem with our economy, and the president won't even meet with his own jobs council. His policies have failed. They've actually made things worse. And this election that's coming up in November is going to be a referendum on the president's economic policies.

VAN SUSTEREN: Your home state has an unemployment rate under the national average, which is -- I mean, which is good for Ohio. It's a swing state. Any thoughts on how President Obama's going to fare in your state? Because it's a very important state because the November election...

BOEHNER: Governor Kasich and his jobs council have done a marvelous job of making it easier to come to Ohio, easier to set up a new plant. There's real cooperation between the state government and those that are looking to locate in our state.

I know he and I, as an example, worked with Abbott Labs, who are building a new facility in Tipp City, Ohio, a $260 million investment that's going to employ up to 400 new people in our part of Ohio. So the governor's done a good job.

And I'm sure the president will try to take credit for it, but I would argue that most of the decrease in unemployment in Ohio came from the work of Governor Kasich and his administration.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK, we're all playing this silly game of who's going to be the vice presidential nominee in your party. Any thoughts on the vice presidential choice?

BOEHNER: Well, you know, I'm partial to Rob Portman. I've been a long-time friend -- United States senator from Ohio, served in the -- as director of Office of Management and Budget under George W. Bush, also served as the U.S. trade rep, served in the House of Representatives, as well, knows his way around Washington. And I think he'd be a great asset for Governor Romney.

VAN SUSTEREN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

BOEHNER: Thank you.

VAN SUSTEREN: Nice to see you.