The United States does not have a “spending problem,” President Barack Obama reportedly told House Speaker John Boehner during recent “fiscal cliff” negotiations. And yes, the Republican leader was shocked to hear those words from the leader of a country with roughly $16.4 trillion in national debt.
The Wall Street Journal’s Stephen Moore, recalling a recent interview with Boehner, writes:
I am talking to Mr. Boehner in his office on the second floor of the Capitol, 72 hours after the historic House vote to take America off the so-called fiscal cliff by making permanent the Bush tax cuts on most Americans, but also to raise taxes on high earners. In the interim, Mr. Boehner had been elected to serve his second term as speaker of the House. Throughout our hourlong conversation, as is his custom, he takes long drags on one cigarette after another.
Mr. Boehner looks battle weary from five weeks of grappling with the White House. He’s frustrated that the final deal failed to make progress toward his primary goal of “making a down payment on solving the debt crisis and setting a path to get real entitlement reform.” At one point he grimly says: “I need this job like I need a hole in the head.”
The president’s insistence that Washington doesn’t have a spending problem, Mr. Boehner says, is predicated on the belief that massive federal deficits stem from what Mr. Obama called “a health-care problem.” Mr. Boehner says that after he recovered from his astonishment—”They blame all of the fiscal woes on our health-care system”—he replied: “Clearly we have a health-care problem, which is about to get worse with ObamaCare. But, Mr. President, we have a very serious spending problem.” He repeated this message so often, he says, that toward the end of the negotiations, the president became irritated and said: “I’m getting tired of hearing you say that.”
Boehner also told the Wall Street Journal that negotiations with Obama and Democrats was brutal. So difficult, in fact, Boehner admits to losing his temper and telling Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to go “f**k yourself.”
“Those days after Christmas,” the Republican said. “I was in Ohio, and Harry’s on the Senate floor calling me a dictator and all kinds of nasty things. You know, I don’t lose my temper. I never do. But I was shocked at what Harry was saying about me. I came back to town. Saw Harry at the White House. And that was when that was said.”
Boehner confirms that when he asked Obama, after budging on $800 billion in new taxes, “What am I getting?” — the president replied: “You don’t get anything for it. I’m taking that anyway.”
To read the Wall Street Journal’s entire report, click here.
Featured image via AP