House Speaker-elect John Boehner is up for talking but, for now, not talking compromise (video)
As we promised right here earlier Thursday afternoon, The Ticket will be publishing a few more transcripts than usual for a while.
As the new political balance from Tuesday's mid-term elections sorts itself out in Washington, we imagine readers like us want to see for themselves how the about-to-be-diminished Democrats and about-to-be-reinforced Republicans position themselves, both for the upcoming new Congress in January and for the 2012 election, now just 735 days away. But who's counting?
Here we are posting, courtesy of the Fox News Channel, its full interview Thursday afternoon of House Speaker-to-be John Boehner by Special Report anchor Bret Baier. The full transcript appears below.
As you will see, we are clearly still in the public-strutting stage of this historic political realignment in the Capitol, with the Ohio leader of the House GOP majority showing that he heard that anti-establishment-campaign warning from voters and constituents alike.
Compromise is not what the conservative soldiers want to hear from D.C. so soon. There's still ...
Boehner is clearly out to give himself some time to organize his new House majority, hear them out, be seen hearing them out and try for some caucus consensus. So he's quick to point out to Baier that the large Democratic majorities are still in charge of Congress until the new members are seated come January.
It's a heady but tricky spot for Boehner and tempting to think short-term with a take-no-prisoners, repeal Obamacare, extend ALL tax cuts, unreform Wall Street approach. First impressions are crucial, however, and more important, lasting. So he can't look too rigid too often too long.
Down Pennsylvania Avenue, as we discussed right here Thursday afternoon, President Obama is quickly trying to position himself as a reasonable middle-of-the-road broker who also heard voters.
And now, by golly, with jobs as Job One no matter how hard it seems, he's just got to try to bring these two parties somewhere together, even though he's the captain of the Democratic team. Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi will likely be largely silent in these exchanges, feigning chastisement and obedience to the president, who is thinking 2012 now.
Actually, Obama's never not been thinking 2012. But after his mid-term spanking in 1994, Bill Clinton showed the way to the middle of the road while still appearing tough with the Gingrich-led opposition at times on certain principles. The result, the newly elected GOP majorities in those days overplayed their hand and appeared more driven by ideology than what was best for the country.
Of course, by the time they're in the D.C. leagues, all these participants know all this. So what really matters is not so much what they do and say on-stage for the witnessing media. But the deals they strike in those non-transparent closed-press White House politics summits to start in mid-November.
Check back here regularly as we'll be publishing numerous full transcripts so you can see for yourself how both sides try to position themselves for these next 735 days until you-know-what. See other related items just below here.
-- Andrew Malcolm
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Transcript of Speaker-elect John Boehner's interview with Bret Baier, as provided by the Fox News Channel
BAIER: We begin tonight with a special edition of SPECIAL REPORT in the Rayburn Room, just off the House floor, named for historic speaker of the House, Sam Rayburn.
Today, we are speaking with the man expected to be the next speaker of the House, Congressman John Boehner. Congressman, thanks for being here.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH): Bret, it's good to be with you.
BAIER: First, let's start with the news of the day. The president is signaling he will be willing to make the middle-class tax cuts permanent, but perhaps only extend temporarily the tax cuts for top earners for one or two years. Would you accept a temporary extension on the top tax cuts?
BOEHNER: Bret, in our Pledge to America, we made clear that we believe that all the current tax rates should be extended for all Americans and permanently. And the American people spoke on election night. They elected Republicans in droves. And what we're going to fight for is -- is for all the current rates to be extended. We don't want to increase taxes on any Americans.
BAIER: So there's no compromise here?
BOEHNER: We do not want to raise taxes on any Americans.
BAIER: I know. The president is saying he wants to reach out, he wants to meet with you, he thinks there could be a deal here. You're saying no.
BOEHNER: Listen, Democrats still control the Congress for the next two months. And I suspect we're going to have a whale of a fight over taxes and spending. The American people spoke on election night. It was their opportunity to send Washington a message. And they -- the message they sent was stop the tax hikes and stop the spending.
BAIER: So in the lame-duck session, you expect some kind of deal to be worked out?
BOEHNER: I have no idea.
BAIER: Because you're not in control...
BOEHNER: We're not -- we're not in control. And I've not been party to any of these conversations. I'm for extending all of the current tax rates for all Americans.
BAIER: Do you see elements, when you do take control, that you can compromise with the president on?
BOEHNER: Bret, I am not going to compromise on my principles nor am I going to compromise the will of the American people. To the extent that the president wants to work with us on reducing the size, scope and the intrusion of the federal government, we're willing to work with him.
The American people spoke pretty loudly the other night. They want us to stop the spending. And it's going to be our principal goal.
The second goal is that they want jobs in America. And you can't have jobs in America when -- when you have all this uncertainty coming out of Washington. And when you extend tax rates for a year, you leave all the uncertainty hanging out there.
People are going to invest. Like me, when I ran my small business, they want some certainty about what the future is going to look like so they can calculate a return on investments. You can't do that by these temporary extensions and other gimmicks.
BAIER: All right, so I know you're a football fan, but this is an ice hockey analogy.
Do you look at a Republican House of Representatives as a goalie trying to stop the bad pucks from getting through with a glove and a stick or are you an offensive player trying to move the puck forward?
BOEHNER: Bret, I've always believed that if you never got off the offense, you never had to worry about playing defense. And I would suspect that you'll see the -- the House move on offense, listening to the will of the American people. We're going to have a -- a giant class of some 80-plus new members between the seats we've picked up and retiring members. They're going to make up one third of our Conference. And the best way to unite them with the existing members that we have here is to follow the will of the American people and that's what we will do.
BAIER: But you have a Democratic-controlled Senate or you -- and you will. And you'll have a president -- a Democratic president in the White House. So in your mind, is gridlock good?
BOEHNER: No, the American people want us to find common ground. And I'm hoping that the president heard what the American people had to say the other night.
BAIER: OK, but what about one thing that you can find common ground with the president on right now, today? What can you say yes, we can come halfway today?
BOEHNER: I told -- talked to the president yesterday. And I told him when it comes to the free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea, that we'd be clearly interested in working with him. But there are responsibilities that I have in that effort and responsibilities that he has in that effort. And we talked about it.
BAIER: People say on Capitol Hill -- so nothing else right now? Energy?
BOEHNER: You asked for one.
BOEHNER: I gave you one.
BAIER: You gave me one. OK. People here on Capitol Hill say Democrats, Republicans and appropriators are up here. The Appropriations Committee is responsible for doling out money, historically. Are you going to change the way the Appropriations Committee works?
BOEHNER: Well, the Appropriations Committee is responsible for funding our government. And -- and over the years, there's been a lot of excesses coming out of that committee. But I believe that -- that if we listen to the will of the American people, we're going to see less spending out of the Appropriations Committee.
BAIER: But the guys in line to be chairmen, they're big fans of earmarks.
BOEHNER: There's going to be an earmark moratorium, it's pretty clear.
BAIER: Why not an outright ban?
BOEHNER: Only because some things that people call earmarks here wouldn't -- wouldn't classify as an earmark to the American people. I've made it pretty clear, this process is going to stop. As you're well aware, I've been here 20 years. I've never asked for an earmark. And I'm never going to ask for one. I told my constituents in 1990, when they elected me, that if they thought my job was to come to Washington and rob the public treasury on their behalf, they were voting for the wrong guy.
I said it. I meant it. And I've been committed to reforming this process from the day I got here. And over the last five years, I've spent countless hours trying to make sure that we spend the American people's money wisely.
BAIER: You were one of Newt Gingrich's top lieutenants. You've been here for 20 years, as you said. What were the mistakes of the last GOP majority? And specifically, what would you do differently than them?
BOEHNER: Well, I think the first thing is, is that listening to the people. It's -- I think it's very important that today we have more Americans engaged in the political process than at any time in my lifetime. And, as a result, we have to keep them engaged. I think the -- the key to our success in the coming two years will be working with the American people, listening to them and having them stay engaged so that they can put pressure on their members of Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, to do the right thing for the country.
BAIER: Healthcare -- the president says he's willing to tweak the healthcare law. You say you're committed to repealing it. There's a big distance between tweaking and repealing.
BOEHNER: Oh, that's a very big difference.
BAIER: You're still committed to repealing it?
BOEHNER: This healthcare bill will ruin the best healthcare system in the world and it will bankrupt our country.
BAIER: So you'll take a vote on...
BOEHNER: I am convinced...
BAIER: -- repealing it?
BOEHNER: We are going to repeal Obamacare and replace it with common sense reforms that will bring down the costs of health insurance.
BAIER: So what do you say to critics who say this vote is really a charade, knowing that a Democratic Senate will either stop it or the president will veto it and that it's taking time and you could be dealing with something else? Why not try to compromise and -- and at least affect it now, the healthcare law, that you can?
BOEHNER: First and foremost, this is about the greatest healthcare system in the world. And secondly, let's not forget, this is also about jobs. And if you look at all of the requirements on employers, you can understand why they're not hiring new employees, because we've raised the cost of employment.
Beyond repealing Obamacare, we're going to do everything we can to stop this bill from being implemented, to make sure it never happens. And, frankly, if we're successful, this will become the No. 1 issue in the presidential election...
BOEHNER: -- in 2012.
BAIER: How much time are you going to spend on this?
BOEHNER: As much...
BAIER: We've spent...
BOEHNER: -- as much as it takes.
BAIER: You criticized the president for spending too much time on healthcare. If you spend a lot of time trying to repeal it when it's not a reality in a Democratic Senate or in a presidential veto, won't you get criticized for that?
BOEHNER: Well, there's a lot of tricks up our sleeves in terms of how we can dent this, kick it, slow it down to make sure it never happens. And trust me, I'm going to make sure this healthcare bill never ever, ever is implemented.
BAIER: So are you for preventing insurance companies from denying someone insurance based on pre-existing conditions?
BOEHNER: No. And there are common-sense reforms that we can agree on that will bring down the cost of health insurance.
BAIER: Are you going to start over?
BOEHNER: Start over -- that's where we were a year ago, that's where we were six months ago. We've not changed our position on this at all. We told the president down at the Blair House during the seven-hour Obama infomercial that we ought to stop and start over. And we laid out the eight or nine common-sense ideas we had that would bring down the costs of health insurance.
BAIER: On Afghanistan, most of the Blue Dog Democrats have now been defeated. So you are the only group of -- the Republicans will be the ones who support President Obama. Will you support President Obama in his -- the way he's prosecuting the war in Afghanistan?
BOEHNER: When the president outlined his plan for Afghanistan, I came out and supported it. I continue to support it. Afghanistan is important for the future of our country and it's important for the current security of our country. And I'm going to do everything I can to make sure that we have success in Afghanistan.
BAIER: The last thing, quickly, the president has gotten a lot of criticism for playing a lot of golf. Do you want to defend him on that?
BOEHNER: He's played a lot more golf than I have this year.
BAIER: Is there a golf summit in the -- the works?
BOEHNER: Not yet.
BAIER: OK. Congressman, thank you very much.
BOEHNER: Thank you.
Photo credits: Fox News Channel