ABC Grills Boehner, a 'Hostage' to the Tea Party, on Whether He Can Avoid the 'Fate' of Gingrich
Published: 4/7/2011 4:35 PM ET
According to World News' Diane Sawyer, House Speaker John Boehner is being "held hostage" by the Tea Party. Over two days and two shows, Sawyer and interviewer George Stephanopoulos hit the Republican as captive to an unreasonable base who want to shut down the government.
On Thursday's Good Morning America, after Boehner asserted that taxpayer dollars shouldn't fund abortions, Stephanopoulos chided, "If you hold on to that, the White House and Democrats have been very clear, there's no deal. The government is going to shut down."
He didn't make the obvious logical conclusion that the Democrats are being held hostage by a liberal, pro-abortion base. Later, the GMA host reiterated his point, arguing: "You know what the Democrats say. They say they can cut a deal with you. But you don't buck the Tea Party."
In a political warning to the Speaker, Stephanopoulos wondered, "You saw what happened to Speaker Gingrich during a government shutdown. Are you going to avoid that fate?"
(What exactly was Gingrich's fate? He was reelected, kept his job through 1998 and the Republicans held the majority until 2006.)
On Wednesday's World News, Sawyer spun, "We keep reading that a lot of people think he's being held hostage, as it were, to the Tea Party inside his own party."
A transcript of the April 7 GMA segment, which aired at 7:06am EDT, follows:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, that potentially explosive issue of congressional pay is just one of the topics I covered in my exclusive interview with Speaker Boehner. He also took on claims by Democrats that he's kowtowing to the Tea Party. And just hours before that White House meeting, signaled why he wasn't ready to accept president Obama's proposal.
SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: We're fighting for the largest cuts that we can because it will help our economy.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But you called for $32 billion in cuts in your original proposal. Now, you're at $33 billion.
BOEHNER: George, remember where all this started. The Democrats controlled the House last year. They controlled the Senate. They should have done this budget last year. They couldn't come to an agreement. We're cleaning up last year's mess.
STEPHANOPOULOS: When you came in this year, you proposed and your leadership proposed a bill that would cut $32 billion. And now, they're beyond that. Why isn't that good enough?
BOEHNER: Well, because the House came up with $100 billion worth of spending cuts. And specific policy riders that have been part of everybody appropriations process. And we send it over to the Senate. It's been 46 days. The Senate has not acted.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You mention those policy riders. Some of them include cutting funding for Planned Parenthood. Cutting the enforcement for the Environmental Protection Agency. The President says those have no place in a short-term continuation resolution. Your response?
BOEHNER: There's never been an appropriation process where there were not limitations on what the administration can do. When it comes to out-of-control bureaucracy in Washington, that comes in the way of creating jobs in America. The EPA is out of control and the American people do not want taxpayer dollars used to fund elective abortions.
STEPHANOPOULOS: If you hold on to that, the White House and Democrats have been very clear, there's no deal. The government is going to shut down.
BOEHNER: We're going to continue to have conversations with our colleagues across the aisle. And I'm hopeful we will be able to come to some agreement.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Should it happen, do you think it's right for members of Congress be paid during a shutdown?
BOEHNER: George, our goal is to cut spending. Not shut down the government.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I understand that. I know that's not what you want. But, it may happen anyway. And if it does-
BOEHNER: George, George, I've said that 1,000 times since the first of the year. I do not want to shut the government down. I think that is irresponsible.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I understand that.
BOEHNER: And the House will act as soon as tomorrow to ensure that the government is open, while we work to reduce spending.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I take you at your word that you don't want a government shutdown. I believe you do not want a government shutdown. If it happens, do you think members of Congress should get paid?
BOEHNER: No. They shouldn't be getting paid, just like federal employees won't be getting paid.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Some of your colleagues have said that you told them you will only sign on to a deal that will get 218 Republican votes. Is that true?
BOEHNER: I never said that privately, nor have I ever said it publicly.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You know what the Democrats say. They say they can cut a deal with you. But you don't buck the Tea Party.
BOEHNER: Listen, there's no daylight between the Tea Party and me.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And bottom line, do you think this will be a deal that will get a majority of Republicans supporting it?
BOEHNER: I feel good about eventually getting to a deal.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Congressman Paul Ryan put out his budget yesterday, his budget blueprint of about $6 trillion in cuts. The President's press secretary says it fails the test of fairness by giving tax cuts to millionaires and putting the burden on senior citizens and students.
BOEHNER: Well, listen. We've made it clear that we were not going to punt. We were not going to whistle past the graveyard, like Congresses in the past. We've got big issues facing our country. And it's time to face up to them. Paul Ryan did a marvelous job in outlining how we can reform this government.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But do you think-
BOEHNER: The President - I've been begging the President for months. "Mr. President, let's lock arms."
STEPHANOPOULOS: What does he tell you?
BOEHNER: Let's do this together.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What does he tell you?
BOEHNER: "Well, I'd like to work with you. But we'll see. We'll see." When are we going to face up to the big challenges that our country faces? We are not going to kick the can down the road.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's say the President comes to the table. Takes on your challenge on Medicare, maybe on Social Security. Can you imagine a situation where your conference would vote for revenue increases?
BOEHNER: I think my team is ready to deal with these big questions.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Including revenues?
BOEHNER: It's time to sit down- I'll put everything on the table. I'm not interested in raising taxes on the American people. But if it takes leaving it on the table to have the conversation, I'll have the conversation.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You've worked a lot more with the President in the last three months than you have in the previous several years. What have you learned about him?
BOEHNER: Well, we've always had a very good relationship. We get along. Get along fine. But we have very different visions for what America should look like and what the role of the federal government should be.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You think it might take 18 holes between you and him to get this deal done?
BOEHNER: I would hope not.
STEPHANOPOULOS: No? So, that's not going to happen anytime soon?
BOEHNER: So, if the President invites me to play golf, it's the President. You don't say no to the President.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You saw what happened to Speaker Gingrich during a government shutdown. Are you going to avoid that fate?
BOEHNER: Yes, sir.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Mr. Speaker, thanks very much.