House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, stepped up his criticism of his former golfing buddy, President Obama, charging in a speech Wednesday morning that Obama had essentially checked out of meaningful talks on the deficit and budget to focus most of his energies on campaigning for reelection.
While the president was addressing the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Boehner told a gathering of car dealers in Washington that Obama’s calls for tax increases as part of his proposals for jumpstarting the economy while controlling the debt were essentially dead on arrival, and that it will be up to Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill to craft long-term fiscal plans that have a chance for passage.
“I have to say that watching the president here over the last couple of weeks has been a bit disappointing,” Boehner said in his speech to the National Automobile Dealers Association at a downtown D.C. hotel. “It’s been disappointing because it’s pretty clear the president decided to forget his role as president and leader of our nation at a time of economic [distress] and to begin to campaign for his reelection some 14 months away.”
Boehner added, “At a time like this, it is time for us to lead. If the president won’t lead, I can tell you that the Congress of the United States on both sides of the aisle will work together to do the right thing for our country.”
Surprise to Obama?
Obama, of course, announced a $447 billion package of tax incentives, aid to the states, and public works projects to jumpstart the economy in a Sept. 8 speech to a joint session of Congress. A week later, the administration revealed that the jobs package would be financed by raising $1.5 trillion of taxes on wealthier Americans and fund managers, eliminating tax loopholes for oil and gas companies, and changing the tax treatment of corporate jets.
Obama included those tax proposals in a broader, $3 trillion debt-cutting package he sent to the congressional “Super Committee,” while vowing to veto any anti-deficit legislation that doesn’t include a balance of spending and entitlement cuts and tax increases.
Boehner said again today that Republicans and the White House might be able to find “common ground” on a few of the president’s proposals, including small business tax deductions, passage of free trade agreements with South Korea, Panama and Colombia, and additional spending for highways, bridges and other infrastructure. But he stressed that raising taxes was out of the question, seemingly deadlocking any serious negotiations even before they begin.
“I can tell you I didn’t come [to Washington] because I wanted to be popular, I came here to do the right thing for the country,” Boehner told the auto dealers. “And raising taxes on the American people is not the way to get our economy going again.”
Boehner and Obama once enjoyed an amiable relationship, playing golf and dining together. But since their secret negotiations for a “Grand Bargain” of nearly $4 trillion of long term spending cuts, entitlement reforms and tax increases collapsed in late July, that friendship has fast deteriorated, giving way to a testy and occasionally nasty relationship.
During his Rose Garden speech on Monday, Obama said that Boehner “walked away” from a balanced package of spending cuts and tax increases last summer, and that the Speaker and other Republicans were willing to reduce the deficit on the backs of middle-class and lower-income Americans to protect “millionaires and billionaires” from sharing in the burden. Boehner fired back in a speech to a small business group in Cincinnati that same day that Obama would “never say yes” to real spending cuts, and that his jobs and deficit proposals would “throw a wet blanket on job growth.”