Moderate Moment | Moderate Moms

Top Dog in the Republican Party Talks Agenda

March 14, 2013  |  Share

Speaker John A. Boehner, before meeting with House Republicans and President Obama on Wednesday.

By 
WASHINGTON — Speaker John A. Boehner suggested Thursday that candidates and personalities – not Republican proposals on Medicare and spending cuts – contributed to Republican losses in November, as he vowed to press forward with a House budget plan that renews the push to shrink the government.

In short, Mr. Boehner, Republican of Ohio, said in an interview, the election losses would not deter his party from pressing its vision of reducing the size of government and turning government health care programs largely over to the private sector.

“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,” he said.

“There are a lot of factors that went into that election,” he added. “I don’t know that that’s the issue. Eighty percent of the American people think that Washington has a spending problem.”

The release this week of a Republican budget that employs spending cuts and an overhaul of benefit programs to balance the budget in 10 years has led some to question why Republicans are sticking with that approach after losing the presidency as well as seats in the House and the Senate last November.

Although he expressed some hope that the Republican House and the Democratic Senate could reach a deficit accord, Mr. Boehner gave little indication that President Obama’s outreach to Republicans had yielded any tangible movement. The president was meeting with Senate Republicans and House Democrats on Thursday.

Mr. Boehner also put the failure of his private budget talks with the president squarely on the White House’s shoulders, saying that avenue toward agreement was now closed.

“I gave the president my bottom line, and he didn’t budge off it,” Mr. 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.’”

But while the president has indicated he is ready to move beyond the endless budget negotiations, the speaker said he was not.

“I’ve spent two-plus years at it,” he said. “We’re going to stay at it.”

The Republican budget, which will come to a vote in the full House next week, seeks to bring taxes and spending into balance within 10 years, largely by rolling back the accomplishments of the president’s first term. It would repeal the president’s health insurance exchanges and expansion of Medicaid, but retain cuts to Medicare that the Republican presidential ticket, Mitt Romney and Representative Paul D. Ryan, spent months denouncing.

It would maintain the level of taxation secured by tax increases on the wealthy in the January deal to resolve the so-called fiscal cliff. But it also says the top tax rate should fall to 25 percent from 39.6 percent, with the cost offset by eliminating undisclosed tax deductions, credits and loopholes. And it assumes the repeal of Mr. Obama’s Wall Street regulatory bill. Medicaid, food stamps and other programs for the poor would be cut significantly, part of $4.6 trillion in cuts through 2023.

“The budget is an opportunity to lay out your priorities, what your party believes in, and that’s exactly what out budget does,” Mr. Boehner said.

It was not clear, however, how those priorities are to be meshed with a Senate Democratic budget that would expand spending on infrastructure, raise taxes and still end up with a budget deficit of $566 billion at the end of the 10-year window.

“His budget was roundly defeated last November. I can’t imagine why they don’t get a new dance step here,” Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, said of the Republican plan, drafted by Mr. Ryan. “So until they get off this Ryan-Republican March Madness – all this magic that it tries to do – we can’t work with it. We’re going to pass our budget. They’re going to pass theirs.”

In a separate interview, Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House minority leader, did suggest that there was some Democratic latitude on the biggest issue for Republicans: changes to entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare. She repeated her resolute opposition to raising the eligibility age for Medicare. But she said she would look at changing the way the government calculates inflation, a move that would slow the growth of Social Security and other benefits, while raising tax revenue over time.

“I want a debate in our caucus,” she said of the proposal, which has been embraced by Mr. Obama. “There are views, some of them on the progressive side of the spectrum, who think that this can be done without hurting the poor or the very elderly.”

She encouraged proponents: “Bring us documentation. Give us evidence. What are the numbers on this?”

But such an olive branch on Ms. Pelosi’s part is going to require a reciprocal gesture from the Republicans, and Mr. Boehner made no such offer, especially on taxes.

“She got $650 billion on Jan. 1,” Mr. Boehner said of the tax deal. “They got their tax increase on the rich. They got what they asked for.”

Nonetheless, he expressed guarded optimism that the House and Senate could come together if both chambers could pass budgets in the coming weeks.

“You know, maybe something comes out of it,” he said. “Hope springs eternal.”

<nyt_author_id>

Jeremy W. Peters contributed reporting.

 

<nyt_correction_bottom>

 

<nyt_update_bottom>

 
 

Leave a Reply

Comment moderation is enabled, no need to resubmit any comments posted.