Transcript: Republican House Speaker John Boehner’s press briefing on the fiscal cliff on Nov. 9, 2012
Edited by Jenny Jiang
Transcript of Republican House Speaker John Boehner’s press briefing on the fiscal cliff on Nov. 9, 2012:
On Wednesday, I outlined a responsible path forward to avert the fiscal cliff without raising taxes.
About 24 hours after I spoke, the Congressional Budget Office released a report showing that the most harmful consequences of the fiscal cliff come from increasing tax rates.
According to Ernst and Young, raising the top rates would destroy nearly 700,000 jobs in our country.
You know, the members of our majority understand how important it is to avert the fiscal cliff.
That’s why the House took action earlier this year to replace the sequester with other types of cuts and is also why over the summer we passed a bill to extend all of the current tax rates for one year so that we have time to overhaul our tax code.
2013 should be the year we begin to solve our debt through tax reform and entitlement reform.
And I’m proposing we avert the fiscal cliff together in a manner that ensures that 2013 is finally the year that our government comes to grips with the major problems that are facing us.
This will bring jobs home, result in a stronger, healthier economy, and a stronger, healthier economy means more Americans working and more revenues, which is what the President is seeking.
This framework can lead the common ground, and I hope the President will respond today in that same spirit.
As I said on Wednesday, this is an opportunity for the President to lead. This is his moment to engage the Congress to work towards a solution that can pass both chambers.
And earlier this week, the President and I had a short conversation. It was cordial, and I think we both understand that trying to find the way to avert the fiscal cliff is important for our country. And I’m hopeful that productive conversations can begin soon so that we can forge an agreement that can pass the Congress.
Press briefing Q&A:
Boehner: Well, when the President and I have been able to come to an agreement, there’s been no problem in getting it passed here in the House.
Boehner: Well clearly the deficit is a drag on our economy, and we can’t continue to spend money that we don’t have. I don’t want to box myself in on – I don’t want to box anyone else in. I think it’s important for us to come to agreement with the President but this is his opportunity to lead.
Boehner: It’s clear that there’s lots of special interest loopholes in the tax code – both corporate and personal. It’s also clear that there are all kinds of deductions – some of which makes sense, others don’t. And by lowering rates and cleaning up the tax code, we know we’re going to get more economic growth. It will bring jobs back to America. It will bring more revenue. We also know if we clean up the code and make it simpler, the tax code will be more efficient. The current code only collects about 85% of what’s due to the government. And it’s clear if you have a simpler, cleaner, and fairer tax code, that effectiveness and efficiency in the tax code increases exponentially.
Boehner: There’s a Republican majority here in the House. The American people re-elected the Republican majority, and I’m proud of the fact that our team – in a very difficult year – was able to maintain our majority. There are lot of races out there outstanding but it’s clear that as a political party we’ve got some work to do. And I think the principles of our party are standing out. We believe in individual responsibility. We believe in empowering our citizens. We believe in the American dream and want that dream for everyone. But how we talk about who we are as a party is clearly a conversation that’s underway and will continue.
Question: Is it fair to say that you could use the raising of the debt limit in early 2013 as leverage on the fiscal cliff?
Boehner: It’s an issue that’s going to have to be addressed sooner rather than later.
Question: A number of exit polls Tuesday night said that there were overwhelming number of Americans – 60% or more who favored raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans. Will you be guided by that principle at all when you sit down to do this?
Boehner: Listen, the problem with raising tax rates on the wealthiest Americans is that more than half of them are small business owners. We know from Ernst and Young 700,000 jobs would be destroyed. We also know that it would slow down our economy. The number one issue in the election was about the economy and jobs. Everyone wants to get our economy moving again. Every one wants to get Americans back to work again. Raising tax rates will slow down our ability to create the jobs that everyone says they want.
Question: What are you looking for in terms of on the entitlement side? Are you talking about restraining the growth of Social Security and Medicare [inaudible]…?
Boehner: Ah, listen. We’re spending a trillion dollars more than what we take in. We can’t continue to do that. This is year 2 of a 25-year demographic bubble that wasn’t like anyone couldn’t see it coming. 10,000 baby boomers like me retiring everyday, 70,000 a week – that’s 3.5 million this year. And this is just the second year of the 25 year baby boom bubble. And it’s not like there’s money in Social Security or Medicare. This has to be dealt with. So everything. Everything on the revenue side and on the spending side has to be looked at.
Question: [Inaudible]…when you said comprehensive immigration reform are you endorsing a pathway to citizenship?
Boehner: Well, I’m not talking about a 3,000-page bill. What I’m talking about is a common-sense step-by-step approach that will secure our borders, allow us to enforce the laws, and fix a broken immigration system. But again, on an issue this big the President has to lead. I think members on both sides want to resolve this issue but the President’s going to have to lead here.
Boehner: I’m not going to get into any of the details of how you would get there. It’s just time to get the job done.
Question: It sounds like you’ve talked about setting up a framework next year to do tax reform and entitlements. But now you have to deal with the sequester, the AMT, the Medicare problem and you’ve spoken of this in the context of a down payment. Can you go into a little bit more about what you expect that to be?
Boehner: I would rather not do that because I don’t want to limit the options that would be available to me or limit the options that might be available to the White House. There are a lot of ways to get there and I don’t really want to preclude anyone who might have the good idea about how we move forward. But it’s clear that we’ve got to fix our broken tax system and we’ve got to deal with our spending problem.
Question: Does calling it a tax reform give you a better way of selling it to your caucus in terms of increasing revenues versus something that’s revenue-neutral, which is a mantra we’ve heard in the past?
Boehner: We’ve had this discussion over the course of the last year and a half. As you all know, the President and I were attempting to deal with this problem a year and a half ago that debt and revenue were on the table. You can produce revenue and put revenue on the table through fixing our broken tax system, by getting our economy going again, and getting more Americans back to work.
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