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Boehner Gives the GOP Take on Budget Plan, Government Spending

April 2, 2009 at 6:45 PM EDT
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House Minority leader John Boehner offers the GOP view on President Obama's budget, and describes the House GOP's alternative proposal.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And now from the speaker we turn the top Republican in the House of Representatives, Minority Leader John Boehner. Kwame Holman spoke to him this afternoon.

KWAME HOLMAN: Leader Boehner, thank you for joining us.

Leader Boehner, you and other Republicans on both sides of the Capitol have looked at this budget that the Democrats are moving today in the House, that is a reflection of what President Obama has called for, and railed against it. What’s wrong with what they’re proposing?

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, R-Ohio, House minority leader: Well, I don’t know where I should begin.

The first problem is it spends too much. When you look at the level of spending in this budget, it will make President Bush look like a piker. And I and other Republicans felt like we spent too much during the Bush years. But this budget, at some $3.6 trillion for next year, will be the largest expansion of our government in our history.

Secondly, it taxes too much. There are some $2 trillion worth of taxes in this proposal that will tax every American. Not only do we have higher taxes for capital gains and the top rate and bringing the death tax back in full force, but we have this national energy tax.

You know, they like to call it cap-and-trade. But what it does is that it taxes energy. And so, if you drive a car or turn on a light switch, or you have byproducts that use a lot of energy, everybody’s going to pay this tax.

But it’s not just the tax that’s so onerous. It’s the millions of American jobs that I believe will be at risk because our competitors around the world don’t have such a policy. And so you’ll see products coming in from China and India and elsewhere that will make our products made here more expensive relative to theirs.

And so you’ve got higher spending. You’ve got higher taxes. And then you get to the real whammy, and that’s the national debt.

President Obama’s budget will double the national debt in the next five years. It will triple the national debt in the next 10 years, given their projections.

This is unacceptable. I think it will imprison our kids and grandkids. It will slow our economy. It will slow job growth in America. It’s just not, in my opinion, not the way to proceed.

Republicans propose tax cuts

Rep. John Boehner
We're in the middle of a serious recession. The best way to help solve that recession is to allow American families and small businesses to keep more of what they earn.

KWAME HOLMAN: The speaker, Speaker Pelosi, says your budget being offered by the Republicans in the House gives too many tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans and does not do those kinds of investments in renewable energy, in education, in health care.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER: I think we have a responsible budget. It does curb spending. It does curb taxes to allow more investment in our economy.

We're in the middle of a serious recession. The best way to help solve that recession is to allow American families and small businesses to keep more of what they earn. And, most importantly, we have much smaller deficits as we go forward.

And so I believe that we have a responsible approach to our budget, far more responsible than the budget plan that they're bringing up.

KWAME HOLMAN: Speaker Pelosi says, in order to get the economy growing again, you need to invest in health care reform. It takes money to do that. You need to make investments in energy and in education, which makes the populace more productive.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER: Well, there are certainly some investments that could be made in our society, but this budget that they're bringing up avoids all of the tough choices. All the tough choices get stuck on the backs of our kids and grandkids. And when you keep spending money and spending money, you don't have to make tough choices.

KWAME HOLMAN: There may be a tough choice Republicans will have to face, in that it could come to pass that the energy -- that the health care investment could pass the Senate with only 51 votes through a process called reconciliation. It's a process that both parties have used from time to time. Why do you oppose it now?

REP. JOHN BOEHNER: But never been used to institute great, big national policy. While it is a tool that's available to the majority, it's a tool that's been used with some discretion in the past, and I would hope that that would continue.

KWAME HOLMAN: Is it all right just to have it as what the speaker calls a last resort, using that 51-vote threshold, reconciliation, while the speaker says she continues to seek bipartisanship with your party?

REP. JOHN BOEHNER: All I can do is chuckle. There's been no bipartisanship. I've reached out, reached out. We've offered better solutions in many cases.

But there's been no effort on the part of the administration or Speaker Pelosi to work in a bipartisan manner. We continue to see these policies rolling out of committee and brought to the floor with little or no debate. This is not -- this is not the way to run the United States House of Representatives.

And, unfortunately, they've taken a go-it-alone strategy, which I don't think is healthy for the country.

Criticism of auto industry bailout

Rep. John Boehner
I don't think the federal government has any right to suggest who the CEO of any company ought to be.

KWAME HOLMAN: Turning to the auto bailout, you come from Ohio, a state with auto production. You've criticized the way the Obama administration handled Rick Wagoner, apparently moving him out.

It's also been said that the auto industry has been treated more harshly than the Wall Street banking companies. How do you assess the way the Obama administration has dealt with both?

REP. JOHN BOEHNER: Well, I don't think the federal government has any right to suggest who the CEO of any company ought to be. But in this case, not only is it the CEO, now they're going to decide -- the administration's going to decide who the board of directors should be. This goes against everything that I believe in.

But at the end of the day, it's the stakeholders, whether it's the employees, the shareholders, the bondholders, the suppliers, they're the ones that have to come to an agreement on how they can preserve the future for G.M. And I'm hopeful that they will.

KWAME HOLMAN: In all of these interventions, have the taxpayers in the financial bailouts, the money loaned to the auto industry, have the taxpayers been put on the hook for too much money? Does that concern you deeply at this point?

REP. JOHN BOEHNER: Well, there's certainly bailout fatigue here in Congress and bailout fatigue in the country. How much money can we afford to invest? How much risk can we take with our kids' future by spending this money today?

But somebody ought to be developing the exit strategy, because we can't continue this effort of pumping trillions of dollars of taxpayer funds into these institutions.

KWAME HOLMAN: Finally, Mr. Leader, Mr. Obama has been in office for a couple of months doing a lot, working with the G-20 right now. How do you assess the work he has done? People have said he's put too much on his plate, missed focus on the economy.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER: I like the president. We've got a good, open and honest relationship.

He has put more on the plate than any president in the history of our country. And I have profound disagreements over his budget and his direction that he wants to take our country.

This huge expansion of the federal government in the midst of a crisis is, in my view, everything I came to Washington to fight against. And my job as the Republican leader here is to fight those proposals with everything that I have on behalf of the American people and, when we disagree, to make sure that we offer what we would think would be a better solution.

We need to have this fight, if you will, and let the American people decide who's going in the right direction.

KWAME HOLMAN: House Republican Leader John Boehner, thank you very much.