Fox News "Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace" - Transcript


By:  John Boehner
Date: Dec. 3, 2012
Location: Unknown


WALLACE: Up next, you'll hear from Speaker of the House John Boehner. He describes his reaction when Geithner presented the White House plan. And he lays out what it will take to get a deal. It's a "Fox News Sunday" exclusive.


WALLACE: As we said, House Speaker Boehner's office called us to say he wanted to come on "Fox News Sunday" to tell his side of the story.

He says the president wants to ramrod a deal through, not work out a compromise. And Boehner might -- he suggests -- be willing to go over the cliff.


WALLACE: Speaker Boehner, welcome back to "Fox News Sunday."


WALLACE: How would you characterize the deal the Treasury Secretary Geithner offered you on behalf of the president this week?

BOEHNER: A non-serious proposal.

The president is asking for $1.6 trillion worth of new revenue over 10 years, twice as much as he has been asking for in public. He has stimulus spending in here that exceeded the amount of new cuts that he was willing to consider.

It was not a serious offer.

WALLACE: Wait, wait. You are saying that there is more spending than spending cuts?

BOEHNER: That is correct. They outlined -- they'd be willing to talk about $400 billion worth of cuts over 10 years. But, at the end of the year, they wanted to extend unemployment benefits, they wanted a new stimulus program for infrastructure, they wanted to extend some other tax breaks.

And all of this stimulus spending would literally be more than the spending cuts that he was willing to put on the table.

Now, understand, Chris, the day after the election, I saw the results, I to the cameras and made it clear: the Republicans were willing to put revenue on the table if there were serious spending cuts and reforms put in place. We've talked about it.

The president and the White House have had three weeks and this is the best we've got?

WALLACE: Take us behind the scenes. Take us inside the room. What was the mood music when Tim Geithner sits there, like we are here and presented this to you? What did you say?

BOEHNER: I was flabbergasted. I looked him and said, "You can't be serious."

I've just never seen anything like it. You know, we've got seven weeks between Election Day and the end of the year. And three of those weeks have been wasted with this nonsense.

WALLACE: OK. So, if they are wasted, where are we now? And, quite frankly, what are the chances we're going to end up going over the cliff?

BOEHNER: Well, right now, I would say -- we're nowhere, period. We're nowhere.

We've put a serious offer on the table by putting revenues up there to try to get this question resolved. But the White House has responded with virtually nothing. They've actually asked for more revenue than they have been asking for the whole entire time.

WALLACE: So, what they're chances we're going to go over the cliff?

BOEHNER: Listen, if we go over the cliff, we'll hurt our economy. We'll hurt job creation in our country. It's not fair to the American people.

And this isn't an issue about Democrats and Republicans. My goodness, this is about our country. And we need to get serious about dealing with the problems at the end of the year and need to get serious about our deficit and our debt that are burying our children's future.

WALLACE: I want to ask you one other question about their offer, because this was a real surprise. Geithner also said they want you, Congress, to give up any powers over voting an increase in the debt limit forever.

BOEHNER: Forever. Silliness.

Congress is not going to give up this power. I've made it clear to the president, that every time we get to the debt limit, we need to cut some reforms that are greater than the increase in the debt limit. It's the only way to leverage the political process to produce more change than what it would if left alone.

WALLACE: OK. The president and Democrats are saying, look, we have already agreed since 2010, since the Republican victory, to more than $1 trillion in spending cuts without any increase in revenue, so we've already given.

BOEHNER: But it doesn't solve the problem. We have a debt burden that's crushing us, and it is -- you look at the president's budget, we've got trillion-dollar deficits for as far as the eye can see. This is unsustainable.

We have 10,000 baby boomers like me retiring every day, 70,000 this week, 3.5 million, retirees, this year alone -- signing up for Social Security and Medicare, people living longer, accessing Medicaid. And, it's not like there's any money in the Social Security Trust Fund, or the Medicare Trust Fund. It's all been spent.

And the whipsaw effect it is having on the budget is horrendous. And if we don't get ahold of it, we're mortgaging our children's future and I am not going to be part of it.

WALLACE: Well, you say you're not going to be part of it. I mean, you are stuck, given the job you have.

BOEHNER: I'm not going to be part of further mortgaging our future.


BOEHNER: It's time to get serious about our debt.

WALLACE: What about the trillion dollars, though? Is it fair to count that as part of $4 trillion in debt reduction?

BOEHNER: You know, it can be part of the package if they want to count it. But where are the next $3 trillion or $4 trillion, $5 trillion worth of reductions that need to happen if we're going to put America on a fiscally sustainable path?

I mean, think about the proposal we got from the president. If we gave the president $1.6 trillion of new money, what do you think he'd do with it? He's going to spend it. That's what Washington does.

WALLACE: You don't think -- you don't believe he'd use it to help pay down the debt?

BOEHNER: He'll spend it. Look at the fact that they put $400 billion worth of unspecified cuts that they'd be willing to talk about, but yet at the same time, that's over $400 billion over 10 years. While he wants over $400 billion in new stimulus spending.

This is -- this is -- it's an unserious proposal.

WALLACE: You've talked about the fact that the president won and you came out with a concession the day after the election. They point out that the president campaigned on raising tax rates, you know, and it was the big issue, between him and Romney. And, they say, just as he had to cave, after your victory in the 2010 midterms, now, it's your turn to cave on tax rates.

BOEHNER: Listen, what is this difference where the money comes from? We put $800 billion worth of revenue, which is what he's asking for, out of eliminating the top two tax rates.

But, here's the problem, Chris, when you go and increase tax rates, you make it more difficult for our economy to grow. Half of that income is the small business income. It's going to get taxed at a higher rate. And as a result, we're going to see slower economic growth.

We're not going to be able to cut our way out of this problem, nor can we can just grow our way out of the problem. We have to have a balanced approach.

But what the president wants to do will slow or economy at a time when he says he wants the economy to grow and create jobs.

WALLACE: Well, the White House says that while you have given this kind of talk, about, well, let's close loopholes, let's limit deductions, you haven't offered any specifics, have you.

BOEHNER: We have laid it all out for them, a dozen different ways you can raise the revenue from the richest Americans, as the president would describe them, without raising tax rates.

WALLACE: What's the biggest proposal you put on the table since the election in terms of raising revenue from closing loopholes and deductions?

BOEHNER: Well, you can cap -- there are a lot of different ways to get there. But you can cap deductions at a percent of income. It'd be one way to get there. You can eliminate certain deductions for those -- the wealthiest in our country. You could do all of that.

WALLACE: Let me ask you a couple of specifics, would you eliminate or lower the home mortgage deduction?

BOEHNER: Listen, there are lots of ways to get out there. Now, I'm not going to debate his or negotiate with you. But if you can sign the bill into law, I'd be happy to.

WALLACE: We're trying to get those powers, but we haven't yet.

BOEHNER: I understand.

WALLACE: Charitable deductions, would you be willing -- I mean, you are a big charity guy.

BOEHNER: Listen, the president has seen a lot of the options from us. There are a lot of them put on the table, and I'm hopeful that the conversations will continue.

WALLACE: OK. But, let's talk about your proposal, because, the president -- and I'm sure this has driven you nuts -- likes to say, the math tends not to work.

Let's look at your math. The White House says a realistic cap -- and I'll explain what that means -- of $25,000 on people making more than $250,000, a cap on their deductions, you can only take $25,000 in itemized deductions and exempting things like charitable deduction, which is pretty unlikely that you're going to do away with that, would only bring in $450 billion, not the $800 billion you are talking about, not the trillion -- $450 billion.

They say the math tends not to work.

BOEHNER: No, the White House knows that the math will work -- to put the kind of revenue on the table that we've been talking about. It won't work if we're trying to get the $1.6 trillion. I'll guarantee you that.

But you can put -- we've put the revenue on the table. And, again a dozen different ways to get there without raising tax rates.

WALLACE: And you can get up to what amount?

BOEHNER: Basically the number that we have been --

WALLACE: Eight hundred billion?

BOEHNER: Somewhere in that range.

WALLACE: The White House, talking about specifics, also says you and the Republicans have offered no specifics for spending cuts or entitlement reforms. Have you?

BOEHNER: Chris, look at the House Republican budget offered by Paul Ryan in 2011. The same budget in 2012, passed the Congress -- all types of specific proposals. I go back to the government --

WALLACE: But he campaigned against that and he won.

BOEHNER: Go back to the super committee -- all of the ideas that were out there.

Look at the conversations the president and I had -- based off the Simpson-Bowles commission, his own deficit reduction commission.

He knows what our proposals are. He knows what we're willing to do. What we don't know, Chris, is what's the president willing to do?

WALLACE: Well, let me ask you specifically about that. Is it true, because it's been said that's it's never -- you know, we have never seen a piece of paper. Is it true that the president offered to raise the eligibility age for Medicare and to slow cost of living adjustments for Social Security when you were in your debt talks in August of 2011?

BOEHNER: It was on the table. Did the president agree to it? He may have been close to an agreement to it. If he agreed to it, we might not have this problem today.

WALLACE: Is that on the table now?

BOEHNER: Of course, it's on the table.

WALLACE: No, is it on the table from their point of view?

BOEHNER: Listen, there are a lot of -- there are a lot of items on the table. The president knows what they are. The question is: what are they willing to do?

WALLACE: You are starting to have some political problems, because you are starting to have some splits in your ranks. I don't have to tell you that one of the top congressional Republicans, Tom Cole, said this week, you know what? I'm not comfortable standing in the way, holding hostage, extending the Bush tax cuts to lower rates for the 98 percent, people making under $250,000.

And you weren't happy that he said that.

BOEHNER: No, I wasn't.

WALLACE: Because that means you're breaking ranks. Isn't it tougher -- going to be tougher to hold to that as you get closer to the cliff and people are facing a tax increase of $2,000?

BOEHNER: Really, that's what's so sad about the situation that we're in. The president, not being serious about coming to an agreement, holding the middle class tax hikes over their heads.

WALLACE: Well, he says you are doing it.

BOEHNER: This is -- this is America. This is our economy. We all want the economy to get better and Americans to have more opportunities at jobs.

And this agreement should come sooner rather than later, because, just the threat of the fiscal cliff is already hurting our economy. Now, listen, I believe raising tax rates hurts our economy, hurts the prospects for more jobs in our country.

And I realize that the president may disagree. But the fact is, if there's another way to get revenue from upper income Americans that doesn't hurt our economy, then why wouldn't we consider it?

WALLACE: What if we go over the cliff? Doesn't the president hold all the cards, then? Because can he say: all right, everybody's taxes increased, I'm offering 98 percent a tax cut of $2,000 a year, you are the party of lower taxes -- are you going to refuse to cut people's taxes?

BOEHNER: Listen, nobody wants to go over the cliff. That's why the day after the election I tried to speed this process up by making a concession to put revenues on the table. And it's unfortunate that the White House spent three weeks doing basically nothing.

WALLACE: So, you've been around this time a long time, you've been in a lot of negotiations. What is their game? What is their thinking as to how they're going to work -- well, they just figure they won, they're going to get what they want?

BOEHNER: I have no idea, Chris. If I knew, I would share it with you. I don't know what they are thinking.

WALLACE: Do you think they are being bullies?

BOEHNER: I think -- they've won the election. They must have forgotten Republicans continue to hold a majority in the House. But, you know, the president's idea of a negotiation is: roll over and do what I ask.

We need to find common ground and we need to find it quickly.

WALLACE: And, again, you kind of didn't answer it the first time, what are the chances we're going to go over the cliff?

BOEHNER: There is clearly a chance. But I'm going to tell you, I might be an easy guy to get along with -- affable, obviously, I've worked in a bipartisan way on a number of agreements.

But I'm going to tell you one thing, Chris -- I'm determined to solve our debt problem. We have a serious spending problem and it's going to be dealt with.

WALLACE: And if the White House is unwilling to do it, are you prepared to say --

BOEHNER: We are going to deal with America's debt problem.

WALLACE: And if they refuse to do it in the way that you find acceptable?

BOEHNER: We're going to deal with it.

WALLACE: Sooner or later?

BOEHNER: Sooner or later. We're going to deal with this debt problem and we're going to do it now. We're not going to kick this can down the road again.

WALLACE: So, if it takes it, you'll go over the cliff.

BOEHNER: I don't want any part of going over the cliff. I'm going to do everything I can to avert that.


BOEHNER: We're going to solve America's debt problem.

WALLACE: Speaker Boehner, on that happy note, thanks for talking with us.

BOEHNER: Thank you.


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