In a revealing interview with The Wall Street Journal, House Speaker John Boehner discussed the conversations he had with President Obama during closed-door fiscal-cliff negotiations. Appearing to have a case of battle fatigue after weeks of negotiations, at one point in the interview Boehner said "I need this job like I need a hole in the head." He says he was most shocked by Obama saying that Washington doesn’t have a spending problem. The speaker, just entering his second term, also explained his notorious “Go f--k yourself” snap at Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. “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,” he said. Boehner also discussed his decision to vote for the Senate tax package, saying a "no" vote would do "serious damage to the economy.”
"What stunned House Speaker John Boehner more than anything else during his prolonged closed-door budget negotiations with Barack Obama was this revelation: "At one point several weeks ago," Mr. Boehner says, "the president said to me, 'We don't have a spending problem.' "
"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."'
"With the two sides so far from agreeing even on the nature of the country's fiscal challenge, making progress on how to address it was difficult. Mr. Boehner became so agitated with the lack of progress that he cursed at Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. "Those days after Christmas," he explains, "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," he says, referring to a pointed "go [blank] yourself" addressed to Mr. Reid."
"Mr. Boehner confirms that at one critical juncture he asked Mr. Obama, after conceding on $800 billion in new taxes, "What am I getting?" and the president replied: "You don't get anything for it. I'm taking that anyway."'
And here you have the latest go-to Republican talking point, "But, Mr. President, we have a very serious spending problem."
Yet in the last year in the Budget Control Act, and the 2011 spring budget deal to avert a shutdown, Congress actually cut $1.5 trillion in spending. After reduced interest payments due to a smaller debt are factored in, a good deal more than $1.5 trillion is cut from spending. The interest savings amount to about $250 billion, bringing the total deficit reduction achieved to date to more than $1.7 trillion. And before that, there was the $700 billion in reduced Medicare spending passed in the Affordable Care Act in 2010.
We have indeed already confronted the "spending problem."
Not that this will keep the GOP from trying to do away with those pesky "entitlements."