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ABC "This Week With George Stephanopoulos" - Transcript - Budget


Location: Washington, DC

SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: Good to be with you, Martha.

MARTHA RADDATZ: It's great to have you here. I call it the so-called charm offensive because you don't seem particularly charmed. You wrote that outreach is always positive, but then you wrote you had heard it all before, saying it's going to take more than dinner dates and phone calls from the president. So, were those dinners and meetings a good thing, or did it make no difference at all?

SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: Well, it's always a good thing to-- engage in more conversation-- engage more members in the conversation that-- have not been involved up to this point. But when you get down the-- the-- the bottom line, if the president believes that we have to have more taxes from the American people, we're not gonna get very far.

If the president-- doesn't believe that the goal oughta be to balance the budget over the next ten years-- I don't-- not sure we're gonna get very far. And this is the whole issue. We have a spending problem here in Washington and it's time to solve the problem.

MARTHA RADDATZ: Well, when you talk about that he has to get beyond the Democratic dogma, but the Republicans have taken a very hard line as well.

SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: Hard line? The president-- you got $650 billion worth of tax hikes on January the 1st. When are we gonna deal with the spending problem? It's as simple as that.

MARTHA RADDATZ: Let's talk about your relationship with the president. Where's your trust level with the president? I mean, you're talking about these meetings as if they really didn't mean much.

SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: No. The president and I, as I have made very clear, have a very good relationship. We're open with each other. We're honest with each other. But we're tryin' to bridge some big differences. If balancing the budget-- were easy, if solving our long-term spending problem were easy, somebody over the last 20 years would've done it.

Now, Bill Clinton, President Clinton-- reached out to Republicans in the mid-'90s. We were able to come to an agreement on a plan that would balance the budget and it did. And it's part of his legacy. And I would hope the president would realize-- that this could be part of his legacy as well.

MARTHA RADDATZ: So, do you trust President Obama?



SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: Absolutely. There's no issue there. We have a very, very-- good relationship. (NOISE) We have differences and we talked about our differences.

MARTHA RADDATZ: President Obama says these meetings are intended to find members of the common-sense caucus who he can make a deal with. Seems to be an effort to go around the leadership. So, are you not a member of the common-sense caucus?

SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: Well, I think-- most people would think that I'm part of the common-sense caucus. S-- we appreciate the outreach. We appreciate the engagement from the president. But it's gonna take more than this if we're serious about solving our problems.

MARTHA RADDATZ: Well, let-- let's move to those problems. The debt crisis, the budget. Listen to what President Obama told George Stephanopoulos about the debt this week.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA (VIDEO): We've already cut-- $2.5-- $2.7 trillion out of the deficit. If the sequester stays in, you've got over $3.5 trillion of deficit reduction already. And, so, we don't have an immediate crisis in terms of debt. In fact, for the next ten years, it's gonna be in a sustainable place.

MARTHA RADDATZ: Is he right that we don't have an immediate crisis?

SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: We do not have an immediate debt crisis. But we all know that we have one looming. And we have-- one looming-- because we have entitlement programs that are not sustainable in their current form. They're gonna go bankrupt. Washington has responsibility-- to our seniors and our near seniors-- that we firm up these programs so that they're there for the long term. Because if we don't do it, not only will they not get benefits, we will have a debt crisis right around the corner. We have time to solve our problems. But we need to do it now.

MARTHA RADDATZ: H-- how long do we have to solve our problems?

SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: Nobody knows where this is. It could be a year or two years, three years, four years. The-- it's not an immediate problem. But we can all--

MARTHA RADDATZ: So, you agree with the president on that?

SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: The Amer-- yes. But his point, as he went on to say in that interview, is that we don't-- we don't really need to do anything at this point. And I would argue that we do need to do something.

MARTHA RADDATZ: Well, one of the things--

SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: The American people know you can't continue to spend money that you don't have. And that's what the president wants to do. The president also said in that interview that his goal wasn't merely to balance the budget. What-- he talks about a bal-- balanced plan. What's balanced about a budget that never gets to balance?

MARTHA RADDATZ: Let-- let's-- let's take a listen to exactly what President Obama said about balancing the budget.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA (VIDEO): No. We're not gonna balance the budget in ten years. My goal is not to chase-- a balanced budget just for the sake of balance. My goal is how do we grow the economy, put people back to work? And if we do that we're gonna be bringin' in more revenue. If we've controlled spending and we've got a smart entitlement package, then potentially what you have is balance.

MARTHA RADDATZ: A quick response to that?

SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: That's exactly the point. Balancing the budget will, in fact, help our economy. It'll help create jobs in our country, get our economy goin' again, and put more people back to work. The fact the-- the government continues to spend more than a trillion dollars every year that it doesn't have scares investors, scares businesspeople, makes 'em less willing to hire people.

MARTHA RADDATZ: Is the grand bargain dead?

SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: I don't know whether we can-- come to an-- a big agreement. If we do-- it'll be between the two parties on Capitol Hill. I believe that it's time to do regular order. We're going our budget-- next week--

MARTHA RADDATZ: But far less likely--

SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: --a bold-- a bold plan--

MARTHA RADDATZ: --a grand bargain?

SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: --to balance our budget over the next ten years because it'll help American families and help preserve the American dream. The Senate is likely to finish their budget-- after-- the Easter recess. Hopefully-- we can go to conference on these budgets and hope springs eternal in my mind. We've got big differences, but if people want to begin to solve this problem, we're gonna have an opportunity to do it.

MARTHA RADDATZ: Senators Graham and Ayotte and other Republicans have said they're open to new revenue if the president is willing to do significant entitle reform. Is that something you could consider? And the Democratic leadership is reportedly now willing to sign onto entitlement reform if revenue is also on the table. Would you say no to that?

SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: The president got his tax hikes on January the 1st. The talk about raising revenue is over. It's time to deal with the spending problem.

MARTHA RADDATZ: President suggested cuts to Social Security and means testing Medicare. Is that enough? What more does he have to do on entitlements for you to consider additional revenue--


MARTHA RADDATZ: --or is that just no way?

SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: --we need to put the entitlement programs on a sustainable path. They're not today and Americans understand this. And the sooner we make changes to these programs to put 'em on a sustainable path, the easier it will be to make those changes.

MARTHA RADDATZ: Well, let me ask you this simple MARTHA RADDATZ: Is there any ratio of entitlement cuts to new revenues that you would--

SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: The president got his--

MARTHA RADDATZ: --say that the is three to one, four to one--

SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: --tax hikes. The president--

MARTHA RADDATZ: --nothing?

SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: --got his tax hikes on January the 1st.

MARTHA RADDATZ: So, the answer to--


MARTHA RADDATZ: --that is no?

SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: --he ran his election on taxing the wealthy. He got his tax hikes. But he won't talk about the spending problem and that's the problem here in Washington. This year, the federal government will bring in more in revenue than in any year in our history.

And yet, we will still spend a trillion dollars more than what we bring in. The American people have to balance their budgets. Businesses have to balance their budgets. Why shouldn't Washington balance its budget? It's good for our country.

MARTHA RADDATZ: Let-- let's move on to the Republican Party itself and-- and the CPAC conference this week. Two Republican Senators and possible presidential candidates spoke at CPAC, Senator Marco Rubio and Senator Rand Paul. But they had very different messages about the current state of the GOP. Senator Rubio saying, "We don't need any new ideas. The idea is call America and it still works." And this is what Rand Paul had to say.

SENATOR RAND PAUL (VIDEO): There is nothing conservative about bailing out Wall Street. Our party is encumbered by an inconsistent approach to freedom. The GOP of old has grown stale and moss covered.

MARTHA RADDATZ: Who's right? Has it grown stale and moss covered?

SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: Listen, I think-- the issue with our party is pretty simple. There's nothin' wrong with the principles of our-- of our party. But Republicans have not done as an effective job as we should in terms of-- of talking about our principles in terms that average people can appreciate.
Why balancing the budget, as an example-- would be good for American families. Lower interest payments. Continue-- pursuing-- the American dream. We've gotta do a better job of helping people understand-- what our principles are in terms that they deal with every day.

MARTHA RADDATZ: What-- what really went wrong here, specifically, when it comes to Congress? A new Washington Post ABC poll shows that 53% of Republicans disapprove of Congressional Republicans. So, talk about what went wrong.

SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: Well, it's-- we're-- we're locked in a big struggle. America is as divided as it's ever been. And-- and-- and-- and we've got big issues that-- the country wants us to deal with and they're very hard to deal with. M-- and when things don't get accomplished, people get upset. I don't blame 'em.

MARTHA RADDATZ: There was a surprise this week. Senator Rob Portman, who is a close friend of yours, a conservative from Ohio, said he has had a change of heart about gay marriage. He will now support gay marriage after learning his own 21-year-old son Will is gay. Has Portman shared this with you?

SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: He has, in fact-- called. Listen, Rob's a great friend and a long-time ally. And-- I appreciate that he's decided to change-- his views on this. But I believe that marriage is a union of-- of a man and a woman.

MARTHA RADDATZ: Can you imagine yourself in a situation where you reversed your decision, as Portman has, on gay marriage if a child of yours or someone you love told you they were gay?

SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: Listen, I believe that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. All right. It's-- it's what I grew up with. It's what I believe. It's what my church teaches me. And-- I can't imagine that p-- position would ever change.

MARTHA RADDATZ: Will Portman said it was not a choice. So, how do you justify denying him a right to marriage?

SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: Listen-- I think that Rob-- can make up his-- his own mind, take his own position. But I've made clear my position.

MARTHA RADDATZ: I wanna get quickly to a couple more topics. Gun legislation: Will you commit to have a vote on the House floor on any gun legislation the Senate is able to pass?

SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: If they pass somethin', I've made clear that we will review it. In the meantime, our committees are continuing to have hearings-- trying to get to the bottom of what-- what can we do-- to help minimize these senseless crimes. I mean, listen, all of our hearts go out to the victims of these mass shootings. But we really need to understand what-- what is it that we truly can do to ensure that this doesn't happen?

MARTHA RADDATZ: Do you see any gun measures passing in the House?

SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: We'll s-- we'll--

MARTHA RADDATZ: Background checks?

SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: --we'll see what the Senate does-- we'll review it, and we're gonna continue-- to have our hearings and review this issue.

MARTHA RADDATZ: On immigration, will House Republicans ever go along with an immigration reform bill that includes-- that includes a pass to citizenship?

SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: There's a bipartisan effort in the House and a bipartisan effort in the Senate. And I've done everything I can over the last several months to encourage-- these bipartisan discussions. This morning, I met-- with four Republicans who've been in conversations with-- senior Democrats for four years. And they're, frankly are-- essentially have an agreement.

MARTHA RADDATZ: Do you personally--

SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: But they've got--

MARTHA RADDATZ: --support a pathway to citizenship?

SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: Listen. What I'm gonna do is to continue to support this bipartisan working group. It's important that we resolve this issue. And the only way we're gonna resolve it is to do it in a bipartisan fashion. There are lots and lots and lots of issues--

MARTHA RADDATZ: And you won't tell us--

SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: --and if the--

MARTHA RADDATZ: --if you personally support it, though?

SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: Listen. My job as Speaker of the House is to help facilitate a process-- for reaching a conclusion. And we're not gonna get to conclusions-- by leaders-- spiking out positions this early in the process.

MARTHA RADDATZ: Just to quote here, you're the highest-ranking Catholic Republican in Congress. This week, we saw the conclave elect Pope Francis, a Latin American. What does this mean for you? What does it mean for Catholics in the country?

SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: Well, this is the first time that we've had-- a pope from the Americas. So, I think it's-- it's a giant step-- forward-- for the church. Latin America-- is a very, very Catholic continent. And-- and I do believe that-- Pope Francis-- is the right person-- to really bring reform to the church.

MARTHA RADDATZ: And what kinda reform?

SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: Well, they've got a number of-- issues-- at the Vatican that I think-- need fresh eyes. And he's clearly made a commitment-- to clean up some of the problems-- that the church has had. And it's pretty clear-- from his humble nature-- that-- that-- his papacy-- will be one that-- I think a lotta people will appreciate.

MARTHA RADDATZ: Thank you so much for joining us this morning, Speaker Boehner. Great to have you here.


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