House Speaker John Boehner emphatically says that raising taxes is “off the table” in upcoming negotiations on the 2012 budget and the debt ceiling, but everything else is open for discussion. Boehner also acknowledged Tuesday on NBC’s “Today” show that politicians exhibited unity in Washington after the killing of Osama bin Laden, “but that’s the war on terror.”
Host Matt Lauer noted that Boehner and President Barack Obama agree on at least one thing: that Pakistan remains a good ally in the war on terror but questions remain about what the country knew about bin Laden’s whereabouts.
“I see an ally, but clearly there are questions that remain about what they knew or didn’t know about bin Laden being in their country,” Boehner said. “There are certainly some questions about their willingness to pursue some terrorists, but maybe not others.
“I do trust them,” he continued. “But I think it’s a moment when we need to look each other in the eye, and decide are we real allies, are we going to work together — and if we are, you’re either all in, or you’re not in.”
“Pakistan has been a real asset, when it comes to fighting the war on terror,” Boehner said. “And let’s never forget that Pakistan has lost more troops and more individuals than we have here in America. So they have been an ally, they have been helpful, but there are questions — and I don’t think there ought to be questions.”
Lauer noted that there was a great show of unity in Washington after bin Laden’s death was announced and asked whether that will be shattered when discussions begin on spending cuts and the debt ceiling.
Boehner replied that killing bin Laden was a great accomplishment, “but that’s the war on terror.”
“We’ve got formidable challenges here at home,” he said. “Listen, you and I are here because we live the American dream — we’ve had real opportunities — and I’m concerned that those opportunities that were available to us will not be available for our kids and grandkids.”
Lauer then asked whether the debates over the debt ceiling will make the recent discussions on the 2011 spending plan “look like child’s play.”
Boehner said that was exactly right.
“This is a window of opportunity for us to address the big challenges that face our country,” he said. “For the last 45 . . . years we’ve spent more money than what we’ve brought in. We cannot continue to do that without imprisoning the future for our kids and grandkids. So this is the moment now to address those problems as adults.”
Lauer noted that Boehner has said discussions on spending cuts should center on trillions of dollars, not billions, and asked how trillions would be possible if getting $39 billion for the 2011 continuing resolution was so “gut-wrenching.”
“I think we need to work together,” Boehner said. “We’ve got really two big pots of money: We’ve got the discretionary part of the budget . . . and then we’ve got what we call mandatory spending — mostly the big entitlement programs.
“We know that these programs will not exist in the future if we don’t make changes to them,” he continued. “Because they are unaffordable for our kids and our grandkids. It’s time to look each other in the eye and do what we know has to be done.”
Lauer noted that Boehner is in a tough negotiating position, as fellow Republicans, particularly tea party members, question how far he is willing to go. He asked Boehner whether tax increases can be under consideration and what evidence the speaker has that Bush-era tax cuts have accomplished their goals.
“What some are suggesting, is that we take this money from people that have been investing in our economy and great jobs and we give it to the government,” Boehner said. “The fact is you can’t tax the very people that we expect to invest in our economy and create jobs. Washington doesn’t have a revenue problem — Washington has a spending problem .
“You can’t raise taxes,” he said. “You can take all of the money from the wealthy — and guess what? We’d hardly make a dent in the annual deficit and do nothing about the $14.3 trillion worth of debt.”
Raising taxes “is off the table," Boehner said. "Everything else is on the table.”
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