WASHINGTON - Read John Boehner's lips: No new taxes.
Obama, Senate Democrats and a majority of the American people may say
the wealthiest Americans need to pay more taxes, but the House speaker
is standing his ground in opposition to raising rates.
taxes on small businesses will kill jobs in America. It is as simple as
that," Boehner said today in a wide-ranging interview with USA TODAY in
which he repeatedly spoke of finding "common ground" with Obama and
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
much work remains in the next 53 days before the country tips over the
"fiscal cliff" - when nearly every tax cut enacted since 2001 will
expire and the first $110 billion of a $1.2 trillion spending cut plan
"I think the members understand that the fiscal cliff ... is unacceptable," he said.
is as resolute in his position as Democrats are in theirs. Democrats
want the tax rates for Americans earning more than $250,000 raised from
35% to 39.6% as part of the broader effort to get the nation's debt and
deficit under control.
"The issue here is the president wants
revenue. I'm willing to put revenue on the table," Boehner said,
outlining the GOP position that enough revenue can be found in closing
tax loopholes, eliminating deductions and other tax changes, and rates
can be left alone. Democrats fundamentally disagree.
Schumer, D-N.Y., said that for Democrats, higher rates on the wealthy
"absolutely" have to be part of a deal. "It matters very much" where the
revenue comes from, he said. Democrats will have "a relentless focus on
the middle class and helping them grow" for the next two years.
Boehner said he, Reid and Obama are capable of finding an agreement, although one remains out of sight.
have no doubts that they're as interested in doing the will of the
American people as I am," he said, although he did offer some criticism
of the president's track record on negotiating with Congress and
translating his vision into legislative reality. Boehner said he
listened to Obama's re-election victory speech.
"It sounded pretty
good, but you know, I remember that speech from four years ago, and
that sounded real good, too," he said, "I don't mean to seem harsh, but
actions speak louder than words."
"I didn't come here to be a
congressman, I came here to do something on behalf of my country,"
Boehner said. "I don't want to be speaker because I needed this big,
fancy office, a big title. I wanted to be speaker so I could lead an
effort to do the right
things for our country. And this idea that we
continue to spend money that we don't have is anathema to everything I
Despite Obama's victory, Boehner said neither the
Democrats nor Republicans have "a mandate" from the election. "The
election was decided by about 1% of the American people."
said his preference in the lame-duck session of Congress, which will
start next week, will be to find a short-term "bridge" to avoid going
off the fiscal cliff and buy Congress and the White House more time to
find a broader solution.
"I've never seen a lame-duck Congress do
big things. And as speaker, I feel pretty strongly that a lame-duck
Congress shouldn't do big things," Boehner said, explaining that retired
and defeated members should not play an outsized role in determining
Beyond the fiscal fight, Obama may find renewed
interest from across the aisle on overhauling the nation's immigration
laws. Hispanics sided decisively with the Democratic Party on Election
Day, a growing cause for concern for many GOP leaders, Boehner included.
"I think it's important that we find common ground with our colleagues
and deal with this issue forthrightly," he said, adding that Republicans
have work to do to diversify their party and their representation in
the House, which continues to be dominated by white males, while
Democrats are poised to become a minority- and woman-dominated party.
need to find more effective ways to talk to the American people about
who we are as a party," he said, "Frankly, our opponents have done a
pretty good job of labeling us as against women, against minorities. We
need to do a more effective job communicating with the American people."
was less warm to renewed Democratic calls for climate change
legislation reinvigorated in the wake of Hurricane Sandy that crippled
the Northeast. "I don't think there's any doubt that we've had climate
change over the last 100 years, what has initiated it, though has
sparked a debate that's gone on now for the last 10 years," he said. "I
don't think we're any closer to the answer that we were 10 years ago."