Boehner’s biggest regret: Collapse of ‘grand bargain’ debt deal

Retiring John Boehner, who handed the House speaker’s gavel to Paul Ryan on Thursday and is ending a nearly 25-year career in Congress, told Fox News he has one big regret: Being unable to secure a “grand bargain” deal to cut spending.

In an exit interview with Fox News’ Bill Hemmer, Boehner reflected on his tumultuous term at the helm of the House. Put simply, he said he “played a role in a fight that’s been going on for over 200 years” over the size of government.

“There’s no winning this fight. It’s going to be this constant struggle,” he said.

But Boehner made clear that he thinks the “grand bargain” budget deal with the White House, which fell apart in 2011, would have gone a long way to addressing the problem. Asked what his biggest regret is, Boehner quickly said: “The debt deal with the president that fell apart. No ifs, ands or buts.”

Both sides have blamed each other for the collapse of that deal, which was aimed at reducing deficits by trillions of dollars and in turn slowing the steady climb of the now-over $18 trillion national debt. Speaking with Fox News, Boehner again asserted “we had an agreement” with the White House, but President Obama “walked away.”

He said the collapse has caused the country to have a “real struggle” with how to address spending and the debt.

"It would have really meant a lot to our economy. It would have meant more for people’s incomes. It would have put our entitlement programs on a stronger foundation,” Boehner said.

Nevertheless, Boehner said he and Obama have a “good relationship,” and said Obama would miss him.

Boehner gave his farewell address on the House floor on Thursday, shortly before Rep. Ryan, the Republican Party’s 2012 vice presidential nominee, was formally elected to replace him.

Boehner told Fox News that he does not have “one ounce of regret” about his decision to retire.

“I’m ready to go,” he said.

Boehner, a Catholic, said his proudest moment was helping facilitate the visit of Pope Francis to Washington and Capitol Hill last month.

Boehner added: “I don’t have any doubt that God put me in this job.”