The White House hit back on Thursday with a sharp rebuke of House Speaker John Boehner’s remarks that President Barack Obama wanted to “annihilate the Republican Party.”
“I know it’s not his goal,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters on Thursday, The Hill reports. “His goal is to work together with Congress, with members of both parties to achieve progress on behalf of the American people.”
In a speech on Wednesday to the Ripon Society, a GOP think tank in Washington, Boehner responded to the president’s inaugural address.
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“Given what we heard yesterday about the president’s vision for his second term, it’s pretty clear to me that he knows he can’t do any of that as long as the House is controlled by Republicans,” the Ohio Republican said. “So we’re expecting over the next 22 months to be the focus of this administration as they attempt to annihilate the Republican Party.
“And let me just tell you, I do believe that is their goal — to just shove us into the dustbin of history.”
Republicans have criticized Obama’s inauguration speech as rife with liberal platitudes — gun control, climate change, same-sex marriage, alternative energy sources — and devoid of any effort to reach across party lines.
“I would have liked to have seen some outreach,” said Arizona Sen. John McCain, the 2008 GOP presidential candidate. “This is the eighth [inauguration] that I’ve been to — and always there’s been a portion of the speech where [the president says] ‘I reach out my hand because we need to work together.’ That wasn’t in this speech.”
Former GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich told Newsmax that parts of Obama’s speech was “goofy left-wingism” — likening the remainder to idealistic principles that might have been espoused by Ronald Reagan.
“But 20 percent is goofy left-wingism — and we’d cheerfully fight him on that,” the former House Speaker told Newsmax. “The whole section about climate change is nonsense. The great energy revolution we’re living through is called ‘oil and gas.’
“There are portions of his speech that we can totally support,” Gingrich said — adding that embracing those sections, in particular, “would totally confuse Obama and the Democrats. That’s not quite what the Left expects.”
Throughout his Ripon Society speech, Boehner hammered President Obama for not taking the country’s deficits seriously, noting that the fiscal cliff talks failed last year because Obama failed to address the realities of the nation’s budget woes.
“In our meetings before Christmas, the president was so tired of me talking about when we were going to deal with an entitlement crisis that he looked at me and said: ‘Boehner, we don’t have a spending problem. We have a healthcare problem.’ It gives you some idea of the challenge that we’re facing,”
“For a guy who’s run up the deficit 60 percent — 60 percent of the deficit has occurred under his watch — when you see this, and then you hear him say: ‘I am not going to negotiate on the debt limit. I am not going to deal with the debt limit. That’s Congress’s problem!’ … Frankly, I think it’s irresponsible.”
Boehner made it clear that Obama faced a tough battle in the House over several issues, including gun control, and urged his fellow GOP legislators to be thoughtful in selecting the issues on which to battle the White House on, The Hill reports.
“We’re going to have to make some big decisions about how we as a party take on this challenge,” Boehner said. “Where’s the ground that we fight on? Where’s the ground that we retreat on? Where are the smart fights? Where are the dumb fights that we have to stay away from? We’ve got a lot of big decisions to make.
“We’ve got the debt limit facing us and the sequester hits on March 1,” he added. “If all that isn’t enough, the government runs out of money on March 27th. No one really knows what will happen. But I’m not quite sure I want to look over the edge of the cliff when it comes to the debt limit.”
“All I know is I’m up for the fight,” he said.
But Carney disputed Boehner’s impressions on Thursday — adding that President Obama had called for unity and compromise in his address.
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“You heard him say in the inaugural address that even though we have profound differences and differences that we will not resolve necessarily in the next year or two or three or four, it is imperative that we come together and act on behalf of the American people," Carney said, according to The Hill.
He added: “What he believes, however, is that we need to have spirited debates but not debates that paralyze us. We need to compromise, not be absolutists, but agree that the call — that the need to act on behalf of the American people should compel us to make reasonable compromise while we stick to our principles.”
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