Former U.S. Rep. Mark Foley tells Newsmax TV that House Speaker John Boehner is “going to have to wave the white flag of surrender” and accept tax increases to reach a deal with President Barack Obama to avert the fiscal cliff expected to occur at the end of the year.
“We have a spending problem more than we have a revenue problem, but there’s got to be a decision to be made to get a little bit of both,” Foley, the popular Florida Republican who resigned his seat in 2006 after five terms, tells Newsmax in an exclusive interview. “We’ve got a divided Congress. We’ve got a Democratic presidency, we’ve got a Democratic Senate and we’ve got a Republican-led House.
“We can bay at the moon as long as we want. We’re going to hit the fiscal cliff. So, Boehner has to concede,” he added. “Boehner’s going to have to wave the white flag of surrender, that we’re going to allow some additional revenue — but I would suggest the Democrats better, including the president, figure out what we’re doing with entitlements, work on reducing some defense spending — waste, fraud, and abuse — and find a way to not just simply say we’re going to keep spending, spending, spending.”
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Now working in real estate and consulting, Foley, 58, also hosts a radio talk show in West Palm Beach.
Boehner is not wrong to consider revenue increases in his talks with Obama, Foley said.
“Most people don’t use a million-dollar homestead exemption to deduct interest from their income. If you adjusted that to $500,000 to properly reflect what the average homeowner needs in a mortgage deduction, you could reduce that exemption and bring in a lot of cash revenue,” Foley said. “Technically, yes, that’s a tax increase on those who have more than $500,000 in mortgage loans, but shouldn’t we design a program that benefits the majority rather than a select few?
“Let’s design a tax code that satisfies the broad middle class. The rich, if they lose a little deduction, aren’t going to notice it. The poor aren’t taking advantage of it. It’s the middle class that we protect by doing so. When you allow that to happen, you raise revenue so then we have a chance to fill in the deficit.
“But if the Democrats are allowed to spend that enhanced revenue, then you’ve really at zero as far as an accomplishment,” Foley added. “That’s why both sides have to work together. Bring a little bit of revenue through some mechanism of the tax code but, really, dramatically reduce spending — and, there, we see a brighter future for America.
“If it’s simply force Republicans to raise taxes and we don’t want to do anything with spending, then this disaster will continue.”
And, any increase in the nation’s debt ceiling should be tied to a Congressional vote, he said.
“It causes people to reflect on the urgency when there’s that debt-ceiling limit, because it makes people remind themselves. If you just put it on autopilot, people lose sight of the fact that we’re in a financial free-fall and we are in a dangerous place.
“That’s the reason for credit limits on individual borrowers: to prevent them from going broke. Our nation has to have the same trigger,” Foley said. “So I disagree completely when the president says let me have ultimate power and let me raise the debt ceiling as I need it. Unfortunately, this man would borrow us into the grave.”
Rank-and-file Republicans should give Boehner some slack during these demanding negotiations, Foley said.
“He’s always in jeopardy. You’ve got a majority leader who probably wants his job. You’ve got a majority whip who wants his job. But when that speaker has to make decisions that reflect the best interest of the nation, there are those who are in extraordinarily safe districts who squawk.
“But this man has to control a body of 435, so I hope they give him the flexibility to properly negotiate,” Foley said. “Hopefully, he won’t give up too much — and we will resolve this problem.”
That includes keeping up the pressure for Democrats to make cuts and changes to Social Security and Medicare.
“Social Security is not supposed to be the end all, be all of your retirement,” Foley said. “People say what if they raise the retirement age? I can’t retire until I’m 67. No, you don’t get paid until you’re 67. You can retire when you’re 35. That’s the free will of the environment. You can do anything.
“Yes, there are those that work hard at average jobs — and 67 may be a burden, but we’re living longer, we’re living healthier, and even people now in our generation who turn 65, they don’t want to retire. They want to stay in the workforce until 72. But if it’s going to be around for your child, Timmy, when he needs Social Security, it better be a system that has longevity.
“The same with Medicare,” he added. “You can’t provide every ounce of healthcare to a growing, age-eligible population without some requirement to suggest the wealthier pay a higher premium or take less out. So I don’t begrudge them. That’s one of the most urgent issues.
“Democrats better get to the table and stop the squawking about you’re hurting the elderly because nobody has proposed, including Paul Ryan, to hurt the elderly.”
More broadly, however, Foley said that the GOP bloodletting in the November election has sent Democrats soul-searching, too, especially on the issue of immigration.
“Democrats don’t want immigration either. The AFL-CIO doesn’t like illegal workers becoming legal, taking jobs away from our people. It’s a very complex situation. While Democrats boast about wanting to be hospitable to Hispanics, at the same time, they’re pushed against the wall by the labor movement, which says, ‘No. We don’t want those people in here, because they’re going to be competitors to Americans.’
“We’re all in this boat together,” Foley added. “There’s lots of illegals. We’ve got to solve the problem. The issue is how the Republicans talk about it. We can figure this out if we become mature.
“If the Republican Party’s going to ever win major elections, they have got to include Hispanics, dare I say gays, and get out of women’s issues and stop worrying about micromanaging things that are really left to the churches and the temples.
“Work on what makes a difference in America, build a stronger national security, figure out homeland security, build jobs, help people become citizens and pay taxes,” Foley added. “Get rid of the lawbreakers who are here illegally, send them home, and those things would allow Republicans to take credit.”
In other remarks in his exclusive Newsmax interview, Foley said:
- Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is seriously considering a 2016 presidential bid. “Jeb is probably our instant frontrunner. He has a pedigree of Republican leadership. Jeb is an incredible, articulate spokesperson on a number of fronts, education being the most important that the Republicans could do to bring about an enhanced reputation.”
- Gov. Rick Scott is doing a “better” job in the Florida State House. “He had a rough start, but Rick gets a higher mark than I would have given him two years ago. He went from probably a C- to almost a B+. He’s still not comfortable in front of cameras, but he’s warming up to people — and he’s doing a great job going around the state to do what’s necessary for re-election. He has a great chance to win re-election.”
- Any debate on gun control in light of Friday’s mass shootings in Connecticut must “identify is the mental instability of those who have committed these crimes. But we automatically, after each of these tragedies, go into the gun debate rather than figure out that we’ve got some very sick, mentally incapable people roaming the streets. This guy may have done it with a knife, a chainsaw. He was looking for a way to do violence. So the gun was not necessarily the only instrument that he had at his disposal. It’s so important to talk about the mental component of this.”
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