Transcript: House Majority Leader John Boehner’s post-election press briefing

Transcript of remarks by House Republican Leader John Boehner at a press briefing on Nov. 7, 2012:

Good afternoon, everyone.

Let me start by offering my congratulations to President Obama and the First Lady and to Vice President Biden and Dr. Biden.

Like many Americans, I was hoping this Presidential election would turn out a little differently.

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are good men and good leaders. I want to wish Mitt, Ann, Paul, and Janna and their families well.

The American people have spoken. They’ve re-elected President Obama and they’ve again re-elected a Republican majority in the House of Representatives.

If there’s a mandate in yesterday’s results it’s a mandate for us to find a way to work together on the solutions to the challenges we all face as a nation.

And my message today is not one of confrontation or one of conviction.

In the weeks and months ahead, we face a series of tremendous challenges and great opportunity.

Just weeks away from now looms the so-called fiscal cliff – a combination of automatic spending cuts and tax increases mandated by law.

House Speaker John Boehner talks about averting the fiscal cliff at a post-election press briefing on Nov. 7, 2012. SOURCE: C-Span

Within months of the fiscal cliff, Congress will be asked to raise the nation’s debt ceiling. Around the same time, legislation will be needed to keep the government running as a continuing resolution under which we’re currently operating expires.

Amid all of these short-term hurdles, we face the greatest challenge of all: a massive debt that is smothering growth and exceeding the entire size of our economy.

There will many who will say that with the election over we should confront the first of these challenges by simply letting the top 2 tax rates expire and pushing the sequester off to some other date. They’d have us engage in the same short-term, temporary policies that have helped put us into this fix. And they’re saying, “Let’s have more of the same. Let’s agree to drive our economy off part of the fiscal cliff instead of driving off the whole fiscal cliff, and we’ll call it a day.”

Now, that might get us out of town but it won’t get us out of the problem and it will also hurt our economy. And we can’t keep going on like that – can’t keep setting the bar that low.

It’s time that we raise the bar. You know, the American people this week didn’t give us a mandate to simply do the simple thing. They elected us to lead. They gave us a mandate to work together to do the best for our country, and we know what the best thing to do would be.

That would be an agreement that sends the signal to our economy and to the world that after years of punting on the major fiscal challenges that we face, 2013 is going to be different.

It would be an agreement that begins to pave the way for long-term growth that is essential if we want to lift the cloud that deficit’s hanging over our country.

We won’t solve the problem of our fiscal imbalance overnight and certainly won’t do it in a lame-duck session of Congress. And it won’t be solved simply by raising taxes or taking a plunge off the fiscal cliff.

What we can do is avert the cliff in a manner that serves as a down payment on and account as for major solutions enacted in 2013 to begin to solve the problem.

Mr. President, the Republican majority here in the House stands ready to work with you to do what’s best for our country and that’s exactly what I told the President earlier today. That is the will of the people and we will answer to them.

And doing what’s best means fully considering the impact of the policies that we might set in motion.

You know, the independent accounting firm Ernst and Young said going over part of the fiscal cliff in raising taxes on the top 2 rates would cost our economy more than 700,000 jobs. They also confirmed that many of those hit with the rate increase will be small business owners – the very people who both parties acknowledged are the key to private sector job creation.

There’s an alternative to going over the fiscal cliff in whole or in part. It involves making real changes to the financial structure of entitlement programs and reforming our tax code to curb special interest loopholes and deductions.

By working together in creating a fair, simpler, cleaner tax code we can give our country a stronger, healthier economy. A stronger economy means more revenues, which is what the President seeks.

Because the American people expect us to find common ground, we’re willing to accept some additional revenues via tax reforms. There’s a model of tax reform that supports economic growth. It happened in 1986 with a Democratic House run by Tip O’Neill and a Republican President named Ronald Reagan.

In 1986, there too were skeptics who doubted the economic benefits of tax reform. Well, those skeptics were wrong.

As Stanford economist and former Treasury Secretary George Schultz put it, “The 1986 reform is the sort of unsung hero of the very good economic time we’ve had for a long time.”

The time has come again to revamp the tax code, and if we do, he argues, we’ll get a gusher and they’ll be a response and revenue will come in.

But the American people also expect us to solve the problem. And for that reason, in order to garner Republican support for new revenues, the President must be willing to reduce spending and shore up entitlement programs that are the primary drivers of our debt.

We’re not seeking to impose our will on the President. We’re asking him to make good on his “balanced approach.”

The President has called for a balanced approach for the deficit with a combination of spending cuts and increased revenues.

But the balanced approach isn’t balanced if it means higher taxes on small businesses that are the key to getting our economy moving again and keeping it moving.

A balanced approach isn’t balanced if it means we increased amount of money are coming into the coffers of government but we don’t cut spending and address entitlements at the same time.

A balanced approach isn’t balanced if it’s done in the old Washington way of raising taxes now and ultimately failing to cut spending in the future.

A balanced approach isn’t balanced if it means slashing national defense instead of making the common sense spending cuts that are truly needed.

Real economic growth eluded us in the first term of this President, and without it we can’t solve our debt problem.

And for the purposes of forging a bipartisan agreement that begins to solve the problem, we’re willing to accept new revenue under the right conditions. What matters is where the increased revenues come from and what type of reforms come with it.

Does the increased revenue comes from government taking a larger share of what the American people earn through higher tax rates? Or does it come as a byproduct of growing our economy, energized by a simpler, cleaner, fairer tax code with fewer loopholes and lower rates for all?

And at the same time we’re reforming the tax code, are we supporting growth by taking concrete steps to put our country’s entitlement programs on a sounder financial footing? Or are we going to just continue to duck the matter of entitlements and, thus, the root of the entire problem?

Shoring up entitlements, reforming the tax code, closing special interest loopholes and deductions, and moving to a fairer, simpler system will bring jobs home and result in a stronger, healthier economy.

And history teaches that this is the right path to take. Tax reform done in a manner which I’ve described will result in additional revenue that the President seeks. It will support economic growth, which means more revenue generated for the Treasury. And it will improve the efficiency of the tax system, means additional revenue as well.

Listen, we’re closer than many think to the critical mass that’s needed legislatively to get tax reform done.

The President and I talked about it extensively during the summer of 2011.

Sen. Pat Toomey and Chairman Jeb Hensarling, with the support of other Republicans, offered substantive proposals in the so-called “Super Committee” last year that provided revenue via tax reform.

Now, the American people recognize that our economy – getting it moving again – is the only way we’ll be able to balance the federal budget.

The question we should be asking is not which taxes should I raise to get more revenue, but which reforms can we agree on that will get our economy moving again?

There are two paths we can take to get the revenue the President seeks. Feeding the growth of government through higher tax rates won’t help us solve the problem. Feeding the economy through a fairer and cleaner tax code will.

Now, the President has signaled a willingness to do tax reform with lower rates. Republicans have signaled a willingness to accept new revenues if it comes from growth from reform. So let’s start the discussion there.

I’m not suggesting that we compromise on our principles, but I am suggesting that we commit ourselves to creating an atmosphere where we can seek common ground where it exists and seize it.

And if we can’t find common ground, it means we’ll continue to operate on a tax code on a year-by-year basis. It means we’ll continue to extend major programs for a month at a time. It means we’ll continuously face expirations of the government’s borrowing authority and we’ll be on constant downgrade watch from our creditors.

In the New Testament, there’s a parable of two men. One who built his house on sand. The other who built his house on a rock. The foundation of our country’s economy – the rock – has always been the small businesses in the private sector.

I ran one of those small businesses and I can tell you that raising small businesses taxes mean they don’t grow. As small businesses don’t grow, our economy doesn’t grow. And if our economy doesn’t grow, we don’t have a prayer of digging our country out of a hole that we call our national debt.

This is why going over part of the fiscal cliff of raising taxes on job creators is really no solution at all. Instead of building our house on sand, let’s build it on a rock. Instead of raising small business taxes, let’s start by fixing their problems. Let’s start by giving them some confidence and certainty about what the future holds.

Now, for this to work, we need to plan for a serious process, focused on substance, not on theatrics. It will require weeks of work rather than a weekend of photo ops. It won’t happen around a campfire in Camp David or in a secret room of some air force base or, as much as I’d like, over 18 holes of golf. I think this is going to take time.

But if we’re all striving for a solution, I’m confident that we can get there.

Mr. President, this is your moment. We’re ready to be led, not as Democrats or as Republicans but as Americans. We want you to lead, not as a liberal or a conservative but as a President of the United States of America. We want you to succeed.

Let’s challenge ourselves to finding the common ground that has eluded us. Let’s rise above the dysfunction and do the right thing together for our country.

Thank you all.


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