In a meeting with a small group of reporters in his Capitol Hill office this morning, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, criticized President Obama and White House officials for their lack of resolve in negotiations.
“Dealing with them the last couple months has been like dealing with Jell-o,” Boehner said. “Some days it’s firmer than others. Sometimes it’s like they’ve left it out over night.”
Boehner explained that talks broke down over the weekend because, he said, the president backed off entitlement reforms so much from Friday to Saturday, “It was Jell-o; it was damn near liquid.”
“By Saturday, they’d spent the previous day and a half just going backwards” on reforming entitlement programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
“The only thing they’ve been firm on is these damn tax increases,” the Speaker said.
The Speaker also made it clear that he believes the President waited too long to get personally involved. When he phoned the president Saturday to give him the bad news about talks breaking down, President Obama seemed surprised but not shocked, the speaker said. The phone call lasted 35-40 minutes.
Boehner said that the tax increases the White House has been pushing for as part of what the president calls “a balanced package” cannot make it through Congress. “What the president is asking us to do just won’t pass,” he said.
The Ohioan said that he believes the public supports the GOP line in the sand. “The American people want us to hang tough,” he said. White House officials “know they’re not winning.”
White House officials of course dispute this assertion and many others that the speaker made.
One thing Boehner and Obama both agree on – they do not want the U.S. government to default on its debts.
“Nobody wants to go there, because nobody knows what’s going to happen,” Boehner said. “It’s a crapshoot.”
That said, according to both Republicans and Democrats familiar with the negotiating process, the path forward remains unclear.
“We’re in a spot where we need to be,” said a Republican official. “It’s not a bad place for us to be” to get a deal done.
Boehner said that since January, ever since he saw the president he urged him to lock arms with him and “go big” on changes to reduce the deficit. The Speaker said that he will continue to push for major reforms to entitlement spending and the tax code even if those provisions do not end up part of this deal.