Boehner Affirms No-Tax-Increase Stance

John Boehner

Mr. Boehner urged the new bipartisan committee to focus on cuts in federal spending and entitlement programs as a way of slowing the growth of government. He said tax increases should be “off the table” as the committee works toward a late-November deadline.

“It’s a very simple equation,” Mr. Boehner said in a speech to the Economic Club of Washington. “Tax increases destroy jobs. And the joint committee is a jobs committee. Its mission is to reduce the deficit that is threatening job creation in our country.”

The committee — a group of six Democrats and six Republican from both chambers — met privately Thursday morning. “We like to eat breakfast without having cameras in our face,” Representative Jeb Hensarling, Republican of Texas and co-chairman of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, told reporters in explaining the decision to take the committee’s deliberations behind closed doors.

Earlier in the day, a bipartisan collection of senators informally calling themselves the “group of 36,” urged the panel to seek $4 trillion in deficit reductions, far more than the $1.5 trillion called for in their mandate.

“We’re with you,” said Senator Kent Conrad, Democrat of North Dakota and chairman of the Senate Budget Committee. “Be bold. Be brave. Go big.”

In his speech, Mr. Boehner warned against the use of what he called “gimmicks” to lower the debt. But he hinted that there might be areas for compromise that could be acceptable to his members.

Building on a proposal he tried to negotiate this year with Mr. Obama, Mr. Boehner said that the committee’s efforts should include proposals to close tax loopholes as part of a broader overhaul that lowers personal and business tax rates. Some Republicans have balked at Democratic proposals to close tax loopholes, calling them tax increases. But Mr. Boehner said he was open to the idea.

“Yes, tax reform should include closing loopholes,” he said. “Not for purposes of bringing more money to the government. But because it’s the right thing to do.”

Mr. Boehner also criticized a common talking point of some of his Tea Party members — that cuts in spending designed to take place in later years are not real, meaningful cuts. He called that idea a myth that needed to be put to rest for the committee to be free to do its work effectively.

“That myth is built on a healthy skepticism that spending cuts made today are going to be implemented tomorrow,” Mr. Boehner said. “But it is a myth nonetheless, and we need to make sure it doesn’t stop us from doing what needs to be done.”

In his speech, Mr. Boehner called on members in both parties to end the “name-calling, the yelling and the questioning of others’ motives.” But he also offered a tough appraisal as the president continues to press his case for his jobs plan.

Mr. Boehner called it a “poor substitute” for pro-growth policies and accused him of offering “initiatives that seem to have more to do with the next election than the next generation.”

The White House press secretary, Jay Carney, issued a statement Thursday night saying: “Any plan to grow the economy and create jobs should be measured by whether it puts money in the pockets of middle-class families, puts teachers, police officers, firefighters and construction workers back to work, and invests in our small businesses so they can grow and hire.  The president’s plan meets that test.”

The speaker promised that House Republicans would consider the president’s proposals. But he said that the government had gotten in the way of private business and that Mr. Obama’s proposals were “more of the same.”

“Job creators in America are essentially on strike,” Mr. Boehner said. “The problem is not confusion about the policies. The problem is the policies.”

With even some Democrats expressing reservations about the Obama jobs proposal, senior officials from the administration met with Democratic senators on Capitol Hill on Thursday to make the White House case for it. Not all were convinced.

Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, who said after the meeting that she did not get enough information from Gene Sperling, Mr. Obama’s chief economic adviser, added: “I’m not being critical. I’m just saying it’s a huge bill, and I need to know that it’s going to help my state. If I can feel that it does, I’m all for it. If it doesn’t, I don’t know.”

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