Sunday, February 14, 2010

Leader of the Republicans in the House, Congressman John Boehner -

I want to turn now right to the leader of the Republicans in the House, Congressman John Boehner.

Leader, welcome back to MEET THE PRESS. You heard...

David, good to be with you.

You heard David Axelrod say that any party, including the Republicans, will be punished if they continue to stand in the way of the president's agenda. What do you say?

Listen, there are parts of the president agenda that, that we've been supportive of. But as a political party and in the minority on the Hill, we have an obligation to the American people to stand on principle. That's why we've all stood and voted against a stimulus bill that was supposed to be about creating jobs immediately, yet three million Americans have lost their job. President said it wouldn't -- unemployment wouldn't exceed 8 percent, now it's over 10. Whether it's his budget with trillion-dollar deficits for as far as the eye can see, their national energy tax that they call cap-and-trade, or this government takeover of health care, Republicans have an obligation to stand on principle and to fight these proposals, but, but, at the same time, to offer better solutions. We've offered better solutions all year long on all these major policies. But we're not going to be bashful about walking away from our principles.

Well, let's bring some of that down. But first, what was your overall impression -- we see the, the appearance on Friday, shaking hands with the president, taking questions. A pretty unusual forum, you haven't seen that a lot. What was your overall impression of the president?

I thought it was a very good afternoon. We invited the president to come because we wanted to have a dialogue, and we're glad that the president accepted. I thought our members were honest, and I thought the president was honest. It's not that we're going to agree on everything. But the American people sent us all here to Washington to, to do what we can to help solve the problems we have in our country.

Well, let's talk about solving problems. This is one of the points that the president made, chastising Republicans in terms of coming together to deal constructively with issues. This is what he said.

We're not going to be able to do anything about any of these entitlements if what we do is characterized, whatever proposals are put out there, as, "Well, you know, that's -- the other party's being irresponsible. The other party's trying to hurt old -- our senior citizens." That the other party is doing X, Y, Z. That's why I say if we're going to frame these debates in ways that allow us to solve them, then we can't start off by figuring out, A, who's to blame; B, how can we make the American people afraid of the other side?

And to that point, I mean, even here you're talking about deficits and debt as far as the eye can see, when you know full well that the president owns a very small percentage, comparatively, of that overall debt as far as the eye can see.


Does he have a point?

No. If, if you think about what I said, I was referring to the -- all the president's policies. Wasn't demonizing him, wasn't demonizing the White House. And I'm usually very careful about dealing with the subject at hand. Listen, there aren't that many places where we can come together. The president is -- well, he was the most liberal member of the United States Senate. You don't get there by accident. And if you look at the policies that we've seen over the course of this year from the administration and his Democratic colleagues in Congress, they're all these leftist proposals. And the people of Massachusetts, the people of Virginia, the people of New Jersey are sending a pretty loud signal, just like the other 47 states, to the -- to Washington, saying, "Stop! This is, this is way more than we ever wanted Washington to do."

Although the president took on this idea of it being leftist policies on health care, indicating that it was, in fact, the move to the center and cost containment that cost him some of the, the support among -- within his own party. My question is, if you -- you heard the president, in the State of the Union, say that saying no is short-term good politics, but it's not leadership. You heard the State of the Union, you heard the president's Friday address. What are you prepared to say yes to, specifically?

Leadership is about standing on your principle and, and opposing those policies that, that we believe are bad for the country. But leadership is also standing up and offering what we think is a better solution. And when it comes to issues like health care, the president did his best to blur the differences, agreeing with us on five or six points, but didn't refer to the other 100 commissions, boards, mandates that are in this government takeover of health care.

What are a few things that the president could do -- maybe he could convene Republicans and Democrats together on C-SPAN, as he said he would initially, and acknowledge that it was a mistake that he did not fulfill that promise during the Friday retreat, get everybody together. What are a few things that Republicans could say, "Hey, if these could be included, we could vote for this"?

Well, I'll give you an example. Last year I told the president, you know, what -- when we can be with you and when we agree with you, we will stand tall with you, as we did on Afghanistan, as we did on Iraq, as we did on things like teacher quality and a number of other areas. But when it comes to, when it comes to health care, we could agree on a some commonsense steps to make our healthcare system work better. But we are not going to put the government in charge of people's health care. And, and it, it's something that there's a fundamental difference here. And most of American has already said no to this big government takeover.

It's interesting. You say you don't want government in charge of health care, and yet you're a supporter of the idea of portable health insurance, the ability to take health insurance across state lines. But I thought the Republicans were states' rights guys and didn't want -- because you'd have to have some kind of federal regulatory agency to monitor that kind of portability, wouldn't you?

No, you wouldn't have to.

Really? Because that's...

What we're saying is the American people ought to buy health insurance across state lines. They ought to buy health insurance where they get the policy that they need for themselves and their family at the best price.

And there wouldn't have to be some sort of federal regulatory system to, to receive that?

Well, no. That's the whole point. The president said, "Well, I'm for that. But, you know, there'd have to be some bureaucrat here in Washington that needs to make sure that this is done fairly." The American people are smart enough to do this on their own.

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