Boehner Commands Deficit Panel Not To Raise Taxes

Sep 16, 2011
Originally published on September 16, 2011 8:23 am
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It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.


And I'm David Greene.

So much of politics is personal and you can feel that at the end of a week of debate over creating jobs in America.

INSKEEP: This week, President Obama campaigned for his plan by traveling to the state of Ohio. The president plans to return there next week, standing in front of a rusty bridge in Cincinnati that he wants the government to rebuild.

Ohio happens to be a presidential swing state and also happens to be the home state of House Speaker John Boehner.

GREENE: Speaker John Boehner outlined his own ideas yesterday in a speech in Washington. NPR's Andrea Seabrook reports his proposal was long on philosophy, short on specifics, and included one provision that infuriated Democrats.

ANDREA SEABROOK: Speaker Boehner's press aides touted this speech as the unveiling of a bold jobs plan, a rival proposal to the president's ideas delivered to Congress last week. But only a minute or so into it, it became clear Boehner was not straying from the party orthodoxy.

JOHN BOEHNER: Listen, we all know the economy is stalled. And it's been stalled. And it's not because the American people lost their way. It's because their government has let them down.

SEABROOK: Boehner did have a few conciliatory words. He believes Republicans can find some common ground with Mr. Obama on jobs proposals. But overall he called the president's plan a poor substitute for the Republican policies he believes will help grow businesses and therefore new jobs.

Then he did say something new. Something practically every other powerful official in Washington had so far avoided: He laid down a mandate for the so-called supercommittee, the bipartisan group of 12 lawmakers tasked with chopping out at least $1.2 trillion from future deficits.

Boehner said there is one thing the joint House-Senate committee must not do, and that is raise taxes.

BOEHNER: It's a very simple equation. Tax increases destroy jobs. And the joint committee is a jobs committee. Its mission is to reduce the deficit that's threatening job creation in our country. And we should not make its task harder by asking it to do things that will make the environment for job creation in America even worse.

SEABROOK: Until this moment Washington had managed to do something really unusual: hold off the demands that both parties would normally make on the outcome of a joint committee. And so in Washington, that had produced almost optimism about the process. For example, just before the speech yesterday, the top Democrat in the House, Nancy Pelosi, stressed that the supercommittee should consider every proposal, from any ideology, that might help the economy and create jobs.

NANCY PELOSI: I don't think we should - any of us - go in there with any lines in the sand about taxes or entitlements. I think our only sacred cow has to be the creation of jobs for the American people, and the creation of jobs now.

SEABROOK: Most important, the 12 actual members of the supercommittee had kept their comments general, protecting their right to negotiate in private at times. They seemed to do everything they could to make the process functional.

Even Speaker Boehner himself acknowledged the need for bipartisanship in solving this crisis. At one point he said: If they want to create a better environment for job creation...

BOEHNER: Politicians of all stripes can leave the, you know, my-way-or-the-highway philosophy behind. You know, the all-or-nothing approach is just not a workable mindset, if we're serious about getting our economy on its feet again.

SEABROOK: Then the speaker went on to say that doing anything that increases anyone's taxes is unacceptable. That ended a remarkable few weeks when what was supposed to be an independent committee actually seemed to be independent.

Andrea Seabrook, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.