House Speaker John Boehner gave these remarks regarding the fiscal cliff on November 9, 2012.
[Editor's Note: Click here for more CFR 2012 resources examining the foreign policy and national security dimensions of the presidential transition.]
BOEHNER: Morning, everyone. Let me say how nice it is to see all of you. You know, on Wednesday I outlined a responsible path forward to avert the fiscal cliff without raising tax rates. About 24 hours after I spoke, the Congressional Budget Office released a report showing that the most harmful consequences of the fiscal cliff come from increasing tax rates. According to Ernst & Young, raising the top rates would destroy nearly 700,000 jobs in our country.
You know, the members of our majority understand how important it is to avert the fiscal cliff. It's why the House took action earlier this year to replace the sequester with other types of cuts, and it's also why over the summer we passed a bill to extend all of the current tax rates for one year so that we had time to overhaul our tax code.
And it's why I outlined a responsible path forward where we can replace the spending cuts and extend the current rates, paving the way for entitlement reform, as well as tax reform, with lower rates.
BOEHNER: Now, 2013 should be the year we begin to solve our debt through tax reform and entitlement reform, and I'm proposing that we avert the fiscal cliff together in a manner that ensures that 2013 is finally the year that our government comes to grips with the major problems that are facing us.
This will bring jobs home and result in a stronger, healthier economy. And a stronger, healthier economy means more Americans working and more revenues, which is what the president is seeking.
This framework can lead to common ground, and I hope the president will respond today in that same spirit. As I said on Wednesday, this is an opportunity for the president to lead. This is his moment to engage the Congress and work towards a solution that can pass both chambers.
Earlier this week, the president and I had a short conversation. It was cordial. I think we both understand that trying to find a way to avert the fiscal cliff is important for our country, and I'm hopeful that productive conversations can begin soon so that we can forge an agreement that can pass the Congress.
And with that, I'll be happy to answer some questions.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE). Do you think that when you start talking about some of these revenues (OFF-MIKE) statements from members (OFF- MIKE) from Louisiana, Duncan from South Carolina (OFF-MIKE) concern. You said (OFF-MIKE) conference call to members the other day that (OFF-MIKE). Do you see -- foresee those same problems when you start talking about some of these issues (OFF-MIKE)? There's already a lot of skepticism (OFF-MIKE).
BOEHNER: When the president and I have been able to come to an agreement, there's been no problem in getting it passed here in the House.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) outlined your goal of not having tax rates go up as part of the solution (OFF-MIKE) in your speech the other day. But you didn't lay out the deficit goal (OFF-MIKE) talked about (OFF- MIKE) balance by 2017. What is the deficit goal that you have in mind (OFF-MIKE)?
BOEHNER: Well, clearly the deficit is a drag on our economy. And we can't continue to spend money that we don't have. I -- I don't want to box myself in. I don't want to box anybody else in. I think it's important for us to come to an agreement with the president, but this is his opportunity to lead.
QUESTION: Mr. Speaker, going...
BOEHNER: Nope, nope, nope. You violated the rules.
QUESTION: Mr. Speaker, notably the other day you made a point of putting new revenues on -- at least on the table. Could you give us an idea -- any more ideas of where you're going with that? Because if tax rates are not on the table, are you talking about going after deductions?
BOEHNER: It's clear that there are a lot of special interest loopholes in the tax code, both corporate and personal. It's also clear that -- that there're all kinds of deductions, some of which make sense, others don't.
And by lowering rates and cleaning up the tax code, we know that we're gonna get more economic growth. It'll bring jobs back to America. It'll bring more revenue.
We also know that if we clean up the code and make it simpler, the tax code will be more efficient. The current code only collects about 85 percent of what's due the government. And it's clear that if you have a simpler, cleaner, a fairer tax code, that efficiency, the effectiveness and efficiency of the tax code increases exponentially. Jake?
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) of the president won re-election than Republicans were basically unable to get any seats for the Senate. More people voted for Democrats in the House than Republicans. Why do you have any leverage whatsoever?
BOEHNER: There's a Republican majority here in the House. The American people re-elected the Republican majority. And I'm proud of the fact that our team in a very difficult year was able to maintain our majority. There're a lot of races out there outstanding.
BOEHNER: But it's clear that as a political party we've got some work to do. And I think the principles of our party are sound, you know, we believe in individual responsibility, we believe in empowering our citizens, we believe in -- in the American dream and want that dream for everyone.
But how we talk about who we are as a party, and is -- clearly conversations are under way, and will continue.
QUESTION: Mr. Speaker, on a different issue, do you have a -- do you plan to have a vote next week on the Russia trade and human rights legislation?
BOEHNER: You'll have to ask -- you'll have to ask Mr. Cantor. I don't schedule the floor.
QUESTION: Mr. Speaker, is it fair to say, you could use the raising of the debt limit in early 2013 as leverage on the fiscal cliff?
BOEHNER: It's an issue that's going to have to be addressed, sooner rather than later.
QUESTION: Mr. Speaker, following on -- on Jake's question, a number of exit polls Tuesday night said that there were -- overwhelming number of Americans, 60 percent or more, who favored raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans.
Will you be guided by that principle at all when you sit down to do this?
BOEHNER: Listen, the problem with raising tax rates on the wealthiest Americans is that more than half of them, are small business owners. We know from Ernst & Young, 700,000 jobs would be destroyed. We also know that it would slow down our economy.
This is about the American -- the number one issue in the election was about the economy and jobs. Everyone wants to get our economy moving again. Everyone wants to get more Americans back to work again. Raising tax rates will slow down our ability to create the jobs that everyone says they want.
QUESTION: Mr. Speaker, what are you looking for in terms of on the entitlement side? Were you talking about restraining the growth of Social Security and Medicare? Are you looking for changes in both those programs?
BOEHNER: Listen, we've got -- we're spending a trillion dollars more than what we take in. You can't continue to do that. This is year two of a 25-year demographic bubble that it wasn't like anyone couldn't see it coming. Ten thousand baby boomers like me retiring every day, 70,000 a year. It's 3.5 million this year, and this is just the second year of the 25-year baby boom bubble.
And it's not like there's money in Social Security or Medicare. This has to be dealt with. So everything -- everything -- on the revenue side and on the spending side has to be looked at.
QUESTION: Mr. Speaker...
BOEHNER: No, no. I wouldn't call on you. My goodness.
QUESTION: Mr. Speaker?
BOEHNER: I'm not blind.
QUESTION: Immigration. What is on the...
BOEHNER: No, the young lady here.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I just wanted to go back to your comments last night on immigration, you spoke optimistically about the chance of getting immigration reform. Does that -- when you said comprehensive immigration reform, are you endorsing a pathway to citizenship?
BOEHNER: Well, I'm not talking about 3,000-page bill. What I'm talking about is a common sense, step-by-step approach would secure our borders, allow us to enforce the laws, and fix a broken immigration system.
But, again, on an issue this big, the president has to lead. I think members on both sides of the aisle want to resolve this issue. The president -- the president's going to have to lead here.
QUESTION: Are you endorsing a pathway to citizenship? BOEHNER: I'm not going to get into any of the details of how you would get there. It's just time to get the job done.
QUESTION: Mr. Speaker, it sounds like you're talking about setting up a framework for next year to do tax reform and entitlement. But now you need to deal with the sequester, the AMT, the Medicare problem. And you've spoken, or there's this concept of a down payment. Can you go into a little bit more about what you expect that to be?
BOEHNER: No, I really would rather not do that because I don't want to limit the options that would be available to me, or limit the options that might be available to the White House. There are a lot of ways to get there and I don't really want to preclude anyone who might have a good idea about how we move forward. But it's clear -- it's clear that we've got to fix our broken tax system and we've go to deal with our spending problem.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) you would need to pay for turning off the sequester immediately? Or can you (OFF-MIKE) part of a bigger deal?
BOEHNER: Nice try.
QUESTION: Mr. Speaker, does calling it "tax reform" give you a better way of selling it to your caucus in terms of increasing revenues, versus something that's revenue-neutral, which is a mantra we've heard in the past?
BOEHNER: Well, we've had this discussion over the course of the last year-and-a-half. As you all know, the president and I were attempting to deal with this problem a year-and-a-half ago that there were revenues on the table. You can produce revenue and put revenue on the table through fixing our broken tax system, getting our economy going again, and getting more Americans back to work.