I sat down for an exclusive interview with Speaker John Boehner -- here is the transcript of our conversation:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Mr. Speaker, thanks for taking the time today.
SPEAKER BOEHNER: George, good to be with you.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: So, is this what you signed up for?
SPEAKER BOEHNER: Of course it is.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Tell me about where we are, because I’m having a hard time trying to figure this out. On the one hand, I watch the President today, I watch you and your leadership team. And it seems like everybody’s at the barricades. But you also say you’re making progress behind closed doors. So, are you confident there will not be a government shutdown this weekend?
SPEAKER BOEHNER: It’ll take us awhile, if there’s an agreement, to actually put it together. So, the House is prepared to, as early as tomorrow, move a troop funding bill-- that-- would also cut about $12 billion from the spending--
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: The President says that’s a nonstarter--
SPEAKER BOEHNER: --and keep-- and keep the government open for another week.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: But the President says that’s a nonstarter.
SPEAKER BOEHNER: Listen, I-- my job is to do what I can do in the House. And I do believe that-- that-- it’s a reasonable chance of keeping the government open and funding our troops-- at the critical time when we’ve got troops in two wars overseas.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: So, that means you don’t believe there will be a framework of a bigger deal by Friday?
SPEAKER BOEHNER: It’s just too early to tell. We have made some progress. But we’re fighting for the largest cuts-- that we can get-- so that we can reduce some of the uncertainty-- that’s affecting job creators. You know? 500 economists tell us that if we reduce spending, we can create a better environment for job creation in America. And what the American people want most right now is a chance at a good job.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: But you know what the President says. He said it today in Philadelphia. He said it to you in the private meeting yesterday that the Democrats have given you as much-- as many cuts as you called for in your original proposal and you’ve got to find a way to declare victory and go home. Why don’t you do that?
SPEAKER BOEHNER: We’re fighting for the largest cuts that we can, because it’ll help our economy. And--
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: But you called for $32 billion for cuts in your original proposal and now you’re at $33.
SPEAKER BOEHNER: George, remember where all this started. The Democrats controlled the House last year, they controlled the Senate. Big majorities in both the House and Senate. And we had a Democrat in the White House. They should have done this budget last year. They couldn’t come to an agreement. And so, when they got to December, they punted-- and funded the government through March 4th. Now, we’ve kept the government open-- while cutting about $10 billion worth of spending. It’s-- it’s-- we’re cleaning up last year’s mess.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Right. But when you came in this year, you proposed and your leadership proposed a bill that would cut about $32 billion and now you’re beyond that. I-- I-- why isn’t that good enough?
SPEAKER BOEHNER: Well, because the House worked its will. For the first time in-- the— all the years that I’ve been here, the House was allowed to work its will. All Members were allowed to offer amendments. And what we came up with— was $100 billion worth of spending cuts. And specifically —specific policy riders that have been a part of every appropriations process. And we sent it over to the Senate. It’s been 46 days. The Senate has not acted. And-- and they’re negotiating from-- from a position, where they have no-- they-- they’ve got no bill that they’ve passed.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You mentioned the policy riders. The President took those on today, as well. Some of them include cutting funding for Planned Parenthood. Cutting the enforcement authority of the Environmental Protection Agency— Administration. The President said those have no place in a short-term continuing resolution. Your response?
SPEAKER BOEHNER: There has never been an appropriation process-- where there were not limitations on what the Administration could do. When it comes to an out of control bureaucracy in Washington-- we know that that’s also getting in the way of creating jobs in America. The EPA’s out of control. And the American people do not want taxpayer dollars used to fund elective abortions.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: So if you hold onto that, the White House, the Democrats have been very clear there is no deal. The government’s going to shut down.
SPEAKER BOEHNER: We’re going to continue to have conversations with our colleagues across the aisle. And I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to come to some agreement.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: I know you don’t want a government shutdown, but should it happen, do you think it’s right for Members of Congress to be paid during a shutdown?
SPEAKER BOEHNER: George, our goal is to cut spending. Not to shut down the government.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: I understand that. I know that’s not what you want. But it may happen anyway. And if it does--
SPEAKER BOEHNER: George, George. I am-- I have said this a thousand times since the 1st of the year. I do not want to shut the government down.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Oh, I under--
SPEAKER BOEHNER: I think that is irresponsible.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: I understand that.
SPEAKER BOEHNER: And the House will act as soon as tomorrow to ensure that the government is open while we work to reduce spending.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: I understand. I’m asking a different question. 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?
SPEAKER BOEHNER: Members of Congress are elected by their constituents. If there is a government shutdown not only will Congress not be paid, but federal employees will not be paid. And we’ll have to determine after the government--
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Not under the current bills that are before you. There-- there’s not a provision to restrict Congressional pay.
SPEAKER BOEHNER: I’m not-- we’ll have to take a look at that. I’m not sure that that’s entirely accurate.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You’re saying you don’t want Members of Congress to be paid during a shutdown, if it comes to pass?
SPEAKER BOEHNER: No, they shouldn’t be getting paid. Just like federal employees shouldn’t be getting paid.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me ask you one final question about this. And really it’s about your standard for a deal. Some of your colleagues have said that you’ve told them that you will only sign on to a deal that will get 218 Republican votes. Is that true?
SPEAKER BOEHNER: I’ve never said that privately nor have I ever said it publicly.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: So, what is-- what is the standard? Do you have to have a majority of Republicans to get a deal?
SPEAKER BOEHNER: George, I don’t have a standard. There’s no-- there’s no one standard that I’m going to impose on myself. I’m fighting for the largest number of spending cuts possible. Because it really will help our economy. This is what the American people had to say last November. They wanted us to cut spending in Washington, D.C. and they wanted us to do everything we could to help create jobs in our country.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: But if it’s a deal that gets 160 or 170 Republicans, 60 or 70 Democrats, that’s good enough?
SPEAKER BOEHNER: George, I’m not going to get into the ifs and ands and this and that. I’m going to fight for the best deal I can for my team.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You know what the Democrats say? And they’ve said it, Senator Reid has Said it, Senator Schumer has said it. Many others have gone on and said it. They say they could cut a deal with you, but you won’t buck the Tea Party.
SPEAKER BOEHNER: Listen, there’s no daylight between the Tea Party and me.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: None?
SPEAKER BOEHNER: None. What they want is they want us to cut spending. They want us to deal with this crushing debt that’s going to crush the future for our kids and grandkids. There’s no daylight there.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: But there’s some of the most prominent members of the Tea Party caucus, Mike Pence of Indiana goes out and says, "If we have to shut it down, shut it down."
SPEAKER BOEHNER: Well, Mike Pence stood up at our conference today and said, "Mr. Speaker, I’m with you."
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: He’s with you? Is that because you’re going to fight for the full $61 billion in cuts that’s unattainable. There has been some talk of about you want $40 billion. The Democrats say they can’t accept that.
SPEAKER BOEHNER: We’re going to fight for the largest number of cuts that we can get.
CLICK HERE for part II of the transcript.
The interview took place on Wednesday, April 6, 2011. The transcript has been edited for clarity.