House Speaker John Boehner said a day after President Barack Obama won re-election that he is ready to strike a deal to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff. (Army Times)
U.S. House Speaker John Boehner signaled Nov. 7 he is ready to strike a deal with President Barack Obama that would avoid the fiscal cliff, saying his Republican caucus is “willing to accept new revenues.”
Boehner’s comments are a shift for House Republicans who for nearly two years have rejected the notion of any move to swell federal coffers as part of legislation to pare the massive federal deficit.
“Mr. President, this is your moment,” Boehner told reporters on Capitol Hill, referring to Obama’s larger-than-expected re-election victory the previous evening. “We’re ready to be led.”
In a clearly calculated move, Boehner then struck a conciliatory tone, directing this toward Obama: “We want you to succeed.” That comment stands in stark contrast to a statement from Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell following Obama’s first presidential victory four years ago when the Kentucky lawmaker told congressional Republicans he hoped Obama would fail.
Obama had strained relations with Congress during his first term, especially with conservative House Republicans, whom he has criticized numerous times. Boehner’s comments seemed aimed at healing those wounds as both parties desperately want to find a path toward a massive deficit-paring package.
“We’re willing to accept new revenues under the right conditions,” Boehner said.
In his prepared remarks — he did not take questions — the House speaker made his case for where fiscal cliff-avoidance negotiations should begin: Reforming the federal tax code.
Boehner, long considered a skilled Washington deal-maker, noted Obama has talked about being willing to discuss tax code changes and lower rates.
In describing his opening gambit, Boehner said House Republicans want a “simpler, cleaner, fairer tax code with ... lower rates for all.”
But Boehner’s speech was not merely conciliatory. He also had some pointed advice for Obama, his sometimes-golfing partner.
The speaker said Obama, as part of the coming talks, “must be willing to cut spending and shore up entitlements.”
The president and other Democrats have for over a year talked about a $1.2 trillion deficit plan that is done via a “balanced approach” of new revenues, spending cuts and entitlement reforms.
But Boehner said House Republicans would oppose any approach that raises tax rates on small businesses or fails to “address entitlements and spending.” He also said his caucus would vote against any legislation that “[raises] taxes now and does not cut spending in the future.”
And finally, Boehner signaled the House GOP would oppose additional Pentagon spending cuts.
He said any legislation would not meet the balanced approach standard if it “cuts national defense instead of making the real, common-sense cuts [elsewhere] that are needed.”
If lawmakers fail to pass a $1.2 trillion deficit-reduction deal this year, twin $500 billion cuts to planned defense and domestic spending would kick in Jan. 2. Those cuts, along with a slate of tax cuts that will expire this year unless Congress extends them during a lame duck session, would plunge the U.S. economy into a deep recession, economists say.
What’s more, Pentagon officials, lawmakers and analysts warn, because the Pentagon cuts would be made by taking about 9 percent from non-exempt accounts, American national security would be hindered.