Transcript: Boehner: “I’m disappointed in where we are” on fiscal cliff talks

Edited by Jenny Jiang

Transcript of remarks by Republican House Speaker John Boehner on the fiscal cliff at a press briefing on Nov. 29, 2012:

Morning, everyone.

You know, the President has warned us of the dangers of going over the fiscal cliff but his actions have not matched his public statements.

Members of his own party seem quite comfortable sending the economy over the fiscal cliff.

Two weeks ago, we had very productive conversation at the White House.

But based on where we stand today, I would say two things:

First, despite the claim that the President supports a balanced approach, the Democrats have yet to get serious about real spending cuts.

And secondly, no substantive progress has been made in the talks between the White House and the House over the last two weeks.

Listen, this is not a game. Jobs are on the line. The American economy is on the line. And this is a moment for adult leadership.

Campaign-style rallies and one-sided leaks in the press are not the way to get things done here in Washington.

The Majority Leader and I just had a meeting with the Treasury Secretary. It was frank and it was direct.

I was hopeful we’d see a specific plan for cutting spending. We sought to find out today what the President really is willing to do.

Listen, I remain hopeful that productive conversations can be had in the days ahead but the White House has to get serious.

Yesterday, our leadership team met with Erskine Bowles and business leaders about averting the fiscal cliff and achieving the balanced approach the White House says it wants.

And I’ve made clear that we’ve put real concessions on the line by putting revenues on the table right up front. Unfortunately, many Democrats continue to rule out sensible spending cuts that must be part of any significant agreement that will reduce our deficit.

And Mr. Bowles himself said yesterday that there’s been no serious discussions of spending cuts so far. And unless there is, there’s a real danger of going off the fiscal cliff.

Listen, going off the fiscal cliff will hurt our economy and it will cost American jobs.

Republicans have taken actions to avert the fiscal cliff by passing legislation to stop all the tax hikes, to replace the sequester, and pave the way for tax reform and entitlement reform.

And we’re the only ones with a balanced plan to protect the economy, protection American jobs, and protect the middle-class from the fiscal cliff.

But without spending cuts and entitlement reforms, it’s going to be impossible to address our country’s debt crisis and get our economy going again and to create jobs.

So right now, all eyes are on the White House. Our country doesn’t need a victory lap, it needs leadership. It’s time for the President, Congressional Democrats to tell the American people what spending cuts they’re really willing to make.

With that, I’ll take a few questions.

Press briefing Q&A:

Question: Why would you not tell Democrats what specific spending cuts you would like to see, especially with entitlements?

John Boehner: It’s been very clear over the last year and a half, I’ve talked to the President about many of them. You could look at our budget, where we outlined very specific proposals that we passed in last year’s budget and the budget from the year before.

We know what the menu is. What we don’t know is what the White House is willing to do to get serious about solving our debt crisis.

Question: Your 2011 position still stands then?

John Boehner: Listen, I’m not going to get into the details but it’s very clear what kind of spending cuts that need to occur but we have no idea what the White House is willing to do.

Question: Before this point, most of your public statements have been optimistic, confident, hopeful. We’re all sensing a very different tone from you right now. Are you walking away from talks? Have things completely broken down?

John Boehner: No, no. No, no, no. Stop. I got to tell you I’m disappointed in where we are and disappointed in what’s happened over the last couple of weeks. But going over the fiscal cliff is serious business, and I’m here seriously trying to resolve it and I would hope the White House would get serious as well.

Question: Is this assessment of yours based on the meeting with Secretary Geithner or your phone call with President Obama last night? Can you tell us something about that phone call?

John Boehner: Well, we had a very nice conversation last night. It was direct and straightforward. But this assessment I give to you today would be a product of both of those conversations.

Question: How much would you be open to the idea of discretionary spending cuts as part of a down payment to get to a longer range solution on entitlements and tax reform?

John Boehner: Well, a lot of options are on the table, including that one.

Question: Before the election, you were asked whether if Obama won taxes would have to go up. [Mumbled audio]…You’re acknowledging that they will…

John Boehner: The day after the election, I came here and made it clear that Republicans would put revenues on the table as a way to begin to move the process to get this resolved.

Question: Right. So my question is what message do you have for people who look at the negotiating and believe that it’s inevitable that you’ll have to accept some compromise on tax rates?

John Boehner: Revenue is on the table. But revenue was only on the table if there is serious spending cuts as part of this agreement. It has to be part of the agreement. We have a debt crisis. We’re spending too much. And while we’re willing to put revenue on the table, we have to recognize it’s the spending that’s out of control.

Question: Roughly what size spending cuts do you think it would take to reach a deal on the fiscal cliff? And do you think that at least the promise of spending cuts has to be included in this level of deal or this talk?

John Boehner: Well, I don’t think it’s productive for either side to lay out hard lines in terms of what the size of the spending cuts ought to be. There’s clearly – there are a lot of options on how you can get there. But the second part of your question was?

Question: Do you think the promise of spending cuts has to be included in a deal that averts the fiscal cliff?

John Boehner: Listen, there’s a framework that we presented to the White House two weeks ago. The framework has been agreed to in terms of a down payment in the end of this year. It would include spending cuts and it would include revenues, setting up a process for entitlement reforms next year and tax reform next year. But this is way out of balance and not a recognition on the part of the White House about the serious spending problem that we have.

Question: …With the prospect of going over the fiscal cliff, which you just called serious business, extending the lower tax breaks but not the upper one, which one would you choose?

John Boehner: I’m going to do everything I can to avoid putting the American economy, the American people through the fiasco of going over the fiscal cliff.

Question: Which is worse, though, for the economy? [Muffled audio]

John Boehner: As I told the President a couple of weeks ago, there’s a lot of things I’ve wanted in my life, but almost all of them have a price tag attached to them.

And if we’re going to talk about the debt limit in this, then there’s probably going to be some price tag associated with it.

Question: Are you saying that dollar-for-dollar for increasing the debt limit with cuts?

John Boehner: I continue to believe that any increase in the debt limit has to be accompanied by spending reductions that meet or exceed it.


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