House Speaker John Boehner took a hard line Thursday on the budget, insisting in an interview with The New York Times that Republicans would continue to push forward with their plans to reduce the size of government by cutting spending without raising taxes, despite ongoing talks with President Barack Obama.
Boehner also made a point of stressing that the GOP's election losses in the presidential and some congressional races last November, in his view, could be chalked up to personalities and candidates, and not the positions Republicans took on spending cuts and other issues that some polls suggested turned off voters.
“There are a lot of things that decide an election, especially the two candidates that you have, the personalities that they have, positions they have taken,” Boehner told The New York Times.
Despite the election losses, Boehner said 80 percent of Americans still believe “Washington has a spending problem” that needs to be addressed.
The Ohio Republican dug in deeper against the idea of any new tax increases, even as Senate Republicans were meeting with Obama. Some senators coming out of that meeting Thursday seemed optimistic about the talks.
However, the president's discussions with House Republicans are not going as well. Boehner's own private talks with Obama are deadlocked, and he blamed Obama for the failure in the Times interview.
“I gave the president my bottom line, and he didn’t budge off it,” Boehner said. “We offered to continue to have the talks. It was the White House who said, ‘Well, there isn’t really any reason to.’”
The House will vote on its budget in the next week. It seeks to balance the budget by 2023 with spending cuts only and no tax increases. The bill, authored by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, targets a number of Obamacare programs for elimination, including healthcare exchanges and the expansion of Medicaid coverage.
It also calls for a reduction in the highest tax rate of 39.6 percent to 25 percent by eliminating unspecified deductions. The bill, the Times reported, also retains Medicare cuts that Ryan and 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney denounced during the presidential campaign, while making cuts in food stamps and other programs designed to help low-income or poor Americans.
“The budget is an opportunity to lay out your priorities, what your party believes in, and that’s exactly what our budget does,” Boehner told the Times.
Senate Democrats say the Republican plan is almost the same one that was defeated in the November election when Romney and his vice presidential running mate, Wisconsin Rep. Ryan, were defeated in the election.
Like the GOP budget, the Senate Democratic proposal, which was approved Wednesday by the Budget Committee on a strict party-line vote, would make some targeted cuts. But it calls for $100 billion in new spending over 10 years on infrastructure and other programs. It would also impose additional taxes on the wealthy by eliminating some individual and corporate loopholes. It would also leave an estimated $566 billion budget deficit at the end of 10 years.
Boehner said Republicans would never go along with more tax increases, noting that they had already allowed $650 billion in new taxes on the wealthy. However, he told the Times there was still a chance that talks between the House, Senate, and the president could yield something in the way of an agreement.
“Maybe something comes out of it,” he said. “Hope springs eternal.”
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