Boehner on Obama Bipartisan Health Care Summit: 'I Don't Want to Walk Into Some Trap'

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," February 9, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Hours ago, House leader -- House Minority Leader John Boehner went to the White House for a bipartisan meeting with the president. Well, what happened? Check it out.


VAN SUSTEREN: Congressman, nice to see you, sir.


VAN SUSTEREN: All right, you were quoted today as saying, "Why are we going to talk about a bill that can't pass," in connection with the health care bill. Did you say that to the president today or to the press?

BOEHNER: We had a conversation with the president, a short conversation. But to the press, who were asking, Well, are you going to go this and what is this, you know, I made it pretty clear that you've got a health care bill that the president and House and Senate Democrats have been working on that they can't pass. And why they would want to start the conversation there is beyond -- beyond anything I can understand.

VAN SUSTEREN: Which I guess is what my question was because the president's made very plain that February 25th, when he's gathering this -- the bipartisan group -- we'll get to whether or not anyone's going to show up, but he said that he wants to start with the existing bills. Is that a non-starter for you?

BOEHNER: I just don't know how productive it would be. You know, we've asked the president all year to scrap this big government-takeover bill and let's start with a clean sheet of paper. Let's find out where we've got common ground and let's try to do the common sense, step-by-step approach to making our current system work better.

Everyone knows that our health care system needs help. But I do think there are half a dozen things we can agree on. So why don't we take this step-by-step approach? But I think starting with a bill that the Democrat majority in the House and Senate can't pass is the wrong place to start the conversation.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is that, though, something you posed to the president today? And if so, what was his response? Because that will be a potential hang-up on February...

BOEHNER: Well, most of the conversation at the White House today was about their so-called stimulus bill -- I'm sorry, their jobs bill, and talking about their debt commission and a few other things. Really wasn't much conversation about the health care bill.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Let me ask you a quick question about that jobs bill. Is -- are we -- is the White House calling it a jobs bill and a stimulus, too? I mean, is this sort of a little -- it's a little -- so the American people, what should they expect, stimulus 2 or jobs bill? Is it profoundly different?

BOEHNER: Well, the House passed a bill in December, which I -- they wanted to call a jobs bill, but it really is stimulus 2. It's the same kind of spending that we saw in the first stimulus bill that didn't work. The Senate bill, though, is smaller and more targeted and they are continuing to have bipartisan conversations about a bill that may actually help get our economy going again.

VAN SUSTEREN: But what is the -- the point of the stimulus bill last year, the $787 billion, was two-fold, was, as least as I understand -- one is to get the economy up and running and the other was to provide jobs. I assume that this discussion today about something that's smaller is -- has the same purpose. So I guess I'm confused why we're calling it a jobs bill, or is there something profoundly different about it?

BOEHNER: Well -- well, no, the Democrat leaders in the House and Senate and the White House know that if it's a stimulus bill, the American people already know that didn't work. So why do they want to use the same thing? So they did all their testing and decided they would call it a jobs bill.

VAN SUSTEREN: So it's a name change.

BOEHNER: It's a name change. That's all it is.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK. All right. And a smaller -- and presumably, a smaller amount.

BOEHNER: At this point, yes.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. All right, now, back to the health care bill. February 25th -- do you intend to go to this bipartisan meeting that the president is calling and is going to have televised at the White House?

BOEHNER: Well, listen, I want to have a bipartisan conversation with the president about how to fix our health care system. But Eric Cantor and I sent a letter to Rahm Emanuel posing a series of questions about, really, what is this? You know, the White House let us know about an hour before the American people saw this in his interview on Sunday afternoon.

VAN SUSTEREN: So it's a stunt?

BOEHNER: Well, I don't know. That's what we're trying to get to the bottom of.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. What would it take for to you go to that February 25th...

BOEHNER: Listen, I want to have this bipartisan conversation, but I want it to be productive and I want it to be real. I don't want to walk into some trap. I don't want to walk into some political event. I want to walk in and have a real conversation about what we can do to make our current system work better.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK, so do you have -- if the president says, We're starting with this bill, I'm the president, I get to make those decisions, it's my meeting, but we're starting with the bill, we're not going to scrap it, are you going to go?

BOEHNER: Well, we'll see. We'd like to go. We'd to have this conversation. But I want to do everything I can to make it as productive as possible.

VAN SUSTEREN: What do you make of the fact that it's televised? The American people are probably delighted that we're getting this televised.

BOEHNER: I think that's fine, but you know, is this a political event or is this going to be a real conversation?

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, except that we've been hammering them about the transparency.

BOEHNER: I don't...

VAN SUSTEREN: The president said, you know, he was going to put everything on C-Span, so we can't criticize him now for when he finally does put it on C-Span.

BOEHNER: Well, that's fine, but I want to make sure that we're going to have an honest conversation, you know, an honest, bipartisan conversation about how we can approach this. I don't want to walk into some set-up. I don't know who's going to be there. I don't know how big the room's going to be. I don't know -- what the set-up is going to be.

And so on behalf of the American people, we've asked the White House, Just scrap this bill. Let's -- let's start over. And I think that's where most Americans are on this bill, and I just want to continue to push the White House to do this. Let's listen to the American people.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, let's play it out, though. He says he's not going to -- he says he's not going to scrap it. He says it's his meeting. It's going to be televised. And so the Republican leadership needs to make a decision. Do we go or do we not go? Do we go hoping that he's going to scrap it and start over, that we can convince him? If we don't go, he's going to have cameras there and he's going to be sitting there with -- among all the Democrats and say, Where are the Republicans, those obstructionists?

BOEHNER: It's the president of the United States. You know, when he offers an invitation to go to the White House, you know, naturally, you want to go. I'm just trying to make sure that this is as productive and honest a conversation as possible.

VAN SUSTEREN: So what are you going to do to do that? Because we know what -- we know what he's got in mind.

BOEHNER: Find out what the starting point is.

VAN SUSTEREN: He says the starting point...


VAN SUSTEREN: ... existing bill.

BOEHNER: We asked the question. Are Democrats who opposed this -- this health care bill -- are they going to be invited? Are the lobbyists who were involved in putting it together -- are they going to be there? There are a number of questions that I'd like to have answered before I give you or the president a straight up or down answer.

VAN SUSTEREN: Any idea how many people are invited to this?

BOEHNER: I have no idea.



VAN SUSTEREN: So they just called up -- you just heard about this an hour before it was going to -- that the president announced that you've been invited.

BOEHNER: Yes. And then shortly thereafter, they announced it was all going to be on TV. So I just want to know what I'm getting into before I get there.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you expect to get an answer to the letter that you and Congressman Cantor sent to Rahm Emanuel? Because we've chased down a lot of letters to the White House. A lot of congressmen have -- Republican congressmen have sent letters, and they have not been responded. Do you expect an answer to this letter?

BOEHNER: I do expect to have some answers before we go down there and walk into who knows what.

VAN SUSTEREN: How do you -- when do you expect that answer? Because we're, like -- it's -- you know, we're moving up on the 25th.

BOEHNER: Well, it's a couple of weeks away, so let's give him a little time.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. So you'll let us know when you get your answer.

BOEHNER: I will.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Well, we're, of course -- we're anxious to watch this on TV because we've been pounding them to -- you know, to put this discussion on TV, so we're anxious. And I hope you ask what happened with that deal with -- with Senator Ben Nelson because we're enormously curious. We don't know if it's a good idea or a bad idea because we don't know how it went down.

BOEHNER: Well, there's an awful lot of talk from the White House that they're trying to meld the House and Senate bills together. And so one of the questions we're asking is, well, wait a minute, if you've got a new bill, are you going to let the American people and let Republicans see this for 72 hours before we go down to the White House? I don't want to walk down there and all of a sudden, they present us with a brand-new bill that we've never seen before.

VAN SUSTEREN: I would think 72 hours is a little short when it's 2,700 pages, but...

BOEHNER: If it's 2,700 pages...

VAN SUSTEREN: That's a lot of cramming.

BOEHNER: ... they better give us a week.

VAN SUSTEREN: Nice to see you. Thank you, sir.

BOEHNER: Nice to see you.


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