House Speaker John Boehner pushed back hard against President Barack Obama’s ongoing campaign against congressional Republicans Tuesday, charging the president has “been AWOL running around the country giving speeches” while Democrats and Republicans in Congress have been trying to find bipartisan solutions to improve the economy.
In an exclusive interview with Newsmax at its West Palm Beach, Fla. headquarters, Speaker Boehner charged that although the president says jobs are his first priority, his actions on the campaign trail suggest otherwise.
“And while the president claims that he’s focused on it, over the last eight weeks he’s been AWOL, running around the country giving speeches but doing nothing to help us find common ground to help get Americans back to work,” the Speaker told Newsmax. “But in spite of that, the House and Senate both have passed bills -- the free trade bills with Panama, Columbia, and South Korea -- that we believe will put about 250,000 Americans to work over the next 18 months.”
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Boehner also cited the Senate’s decision to move forward Monday on a bill that would give employers tax credits of up to $5,600 for hiring unemployed veterans, and up to $9,600 for hiring disabled veterans, as an example of the practical steps Congress has been taking to improve the economy.
“A similar bill passed the House last week,” said Boehner. “So we’re continuing to find common ground with our Democratic colleagues to help get our economy moving again which is what most Americans are concerned about.”
Asked about his relationship with the president, Boehner told Newsmax: “The last few weeks it’s been a little frosty as the president decided to shirk his responsibilities to be a leader, and has gone out and decided to campaign fulltime. It’s been a bit disappointing to me. And I haven’t talked with the president much during this period.”
On Monday, Obama urged the Senate to pass the bill promoting jobs for veterans, lecturing Republicans to “put country before party.”
Boehner’s riposte indicates that President Obama’s ongoing effort to persuade voters that Republicans -- rather than his own policies -- are responsible for the weak economy has gotten the full attention of GOP leaders.
The debate over how best to boost the economy is occurring as the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction appears to be deadlocked. Boehner said he knows one thing that won’t come out of the super committee: higher taxes.
“At a time though when we have budget deficits of $1.3 trillion -- about 40 cents of every dollar the federal government spends this year -- we've got to strike a balance,” said Boehner. “But I can tell you this: We are not going to raise taxes on the American people. That is a certainty.”
Other highlights from the exclusive Newsmax interview with Speaker Boehner:
- Obama’s strengths and weaknesses – Boehner said President Obama’s greatest strength is his intelligence. But his great liability, Boehner told Newsmax, is his lack of experience in the private sector. “I don’t think he really understands how the American economy works,” Boehner said. [Click here for Speaker Boehner’s complete remarks on President Obama].
- Iran & Israel – He said the president “could have been stronger in his support of Israel,” and put “far too much pressure on the Israelis to come to an agreement with the Palestinians, even though they are supported by Hamas. I just think that we’ve gone way over the line. Israel is our ally.” [Click here for Speaker Boehner’s complete remarks on Iran & Israel].
- Solyndra – Boehner said the administration is “making the mistake that every White House does” in failing to fully comply with congressional subpoenas and information stemming from the Solyndra bankruptcy that left taxpayers on the hook for over half a billion dollars of loan guarantees. Congress, he vowed, “will be relentless in our pursuit of the truth.” [Click here for Speaker Boehner’s complete remarks on Solyndra].
- DOMA, Immigration, and selective enforcement – The Speaker criticized what he called the administration’s “selective enforcement” of the Defense of Marriage Act and Immigration Statutes, saying “this is not the way that our government was intended to work.” [Click here for Speaker Boehner’s complete remarks on selective enforcement].
The Speaker also charged that the House has passed 22 bills to bolster the economy. That legislation, he said, is now languishing in the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate.
“All of them were passed with a bipartisan majority out of the House,” he said. “Yet none of them seems to have been acted on in the United States Senate. It’s time for Harry Reid and Democratic Senators, who have the majority in the United States Senate, to begin to look at these bills because many of them were supported by the president.”
Boehner added that GOP leaders have “kept a very close eye” on unilateral presidential action that is taken without legislative approval -- what White House chief of staff Bill Daley recently described as “pushing the envelope.”
“There is a Constitution,” Boehner said. “As a matter of fact, the president taught constitutional law, if I’m correct. So he understands that Congress has the power of the purse, and that while there are some executive decisions that he can make, the fact is he can’t spend money and he can’t take actions that would contradict any existing laws.”
Boehner appeared to extend an olive branch to the president, however, saying Obama has not crossed constitutional lines in exercising his executive power.
“The president’s got a tough job,” Speaker Boehner told Newsmax. “My job isn’t to make it more difficult. My job is to help work with him to get things accomplished for the American people.
“While we may have very different ideas about what will help the American people,” he said, “they still expect us to work together to find enough common ground to be able to move our economy forward.”
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