'Flabbergasted' Boehner Says Obama's Plan Has More Spending Than Spending Cuts
(CNSNews.com) — House Speaker John Boehner said he was "flabbergasted" when Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner told him about the White House plan to save the nation from going over the "fiscal cliff."
Boehner, appearing on "Fox News Sunday," said his reaction after Geithner briefed him privately on Thursday, was: "You can't be serious."
Boehner called it "silliness" that the White House is, among other things, asking Congress to give up its power to set the nation's debt limit: "Congress is not going to give up this power," Boehner said.
"The president is asking for $1.6 trillion worth of new revenue (higher taxes on the wealthy) over 10 years, twice as much as he has been asking for in public. He has stimulus spending in here that exceeded the amount of new cuts that he was willing to consider," Boehner said. "It was not a serious offer."
Asked by host Chris Wallace to clarify that the president's plan contains "more spending than spending cuts," Boehner said, "That is correct."
"They outlined -- they'd be willing to talk about $400 billion worth of cuts over 10 years. But at the end of the year, they wanted to extend unemployment benefits, they wanted a new stimulus program for infrastructure, they wanted to extend some other tax breaks," Boehner said. "And all of this stimulus spending would literally be more than the spending cuts that he was willing to put on the table."
Boehner said he's made it clear that Republicans are willing to "put revenue on the table" -- raise taxes -- if Democrats are serious about spending cuts and reforms.
"Listen, nobody wants to go over the cliff," Boehner said. "That's why the day after the election I tried to speed this process up by making a concession to put revenues on the table. And it's unfortunate that the White House spent three weeks doing basically nothing."
He described Obama's idea of negotiating as "roll over and do what I ask."
Even if Congress did approve the $1.6-trillion tax hike President Obama is requesting, Boehner said Obama would not use the money to pay down the ballooning debt: "What do you think he'd do with it? He's going to spend it. That's what Washington does," Boehner said.
Moreover, increasing tax rates makes it more difficult to grow the economy, he noted, because the higher rates would squeeze many small businesses.
Boehner said there are "a dozen different ways" to raise revenue without raising tax rates, including limiting deductions and "loopholes." Republicans prefer to go that route.
So will the nation go over the fiscal cliff, a term that refers to the automatic onset of tax hikes and deep spending cuts?
"Well, right now, I would say -- we're nowhere, period. We're nowhere," Boehner repeated. "We've put a serious offer on the table by putting revenues up there to try to get this question resolved. But the White House has responded with virtually nothing. They've actually asked for more revenue than they have been asking for the whole entire time."
Admitting it's "not fair to the American people" to go over the fiscal cliff, Boehner also said the nation needs to "get serious" about the deficit and debt that are "burying our children's future."
"We have a debt burden that's crushing us, and it is -- you look at the president's budget, we've got trillion-dollar deficits for as far as the eye can see. This is unsustainable," he said.
"We have 10,000 baby boomers like me retiring every day, 70,000 this week, 3.5 million, retirees, this year alone -- signing up for Social Security and Medicare, people living longer, accessing Medicaid. And, it's not like there's any money in the Social Security Trust Fund, or the Medicare Trust Fund. It's all been spent.
"And the whipsaw effect it is having on the budget is horrendous. And if we don't get ahold of it, we're mortgaging our children's future and I am not going to be part of it."
"There's clearly a chance" that no deal will be reached by the end of the year, Boehner said. But, he added, "I don't want any port of going over the cliff. I'm going to do everything I can to avert that.
"We're going to solve America's debt problem," he insisted.