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Posted at 02:19 PM ET, 09/19/2011

Boehner on Obama debt plan: ‘I don’t think I would describe class warfare as leadership’


(Andrew Harrer/BLOOMBERG)

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) sharply criticized President Obama’s deficit-reduction plan Monday, calling the proposal to raise $1.5 trillion in new revenue a failure of leadership.

“I don’t think I would describe class warfare as leadership,” Boehner told Fox Business Network, according to advance excerpts of an interview scheduled to air at 5 p.m. Eastern. “The government has a spending problem, and I don’t believe it makes any sense to tax the people we expect to invest in our economy.”

And in a speech before small-business leaders in Cincinnati on Monday, Boehner said the White House was “throwing a wet blanket” on job growth, according to Cincannti.com.

“Giving the federal government more money would be like giving a cocaine addict more cocaine,’’accused the House speaker in a day that saw the president and the speaker trade sharp barbs.

Echoing criticism made by other Republican leaders over the weekend, Boehner took aim not only at the proposal’s inclusion of new revenue but also at the substance of the $3 trillion in deficit savings the plan would achieve over the next decade, about $1 trillion of which would come from winding down the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“Do you think it’s fair to take a trillion dollars of less spending on wars and claim it as your own?” Boehner asked. “We all knew that we were going to spend less in the wars in Iraq and the wars in Afghanistan, but nobody really felt like we ought to be taking credit for what was already going to happen.”

One theme that has emerged in the wake of Obama’s speech is that more than one month after August’s debt-ceiling deal, both sides continue to spar over Obama and Boehner’s inability to agree on a “grand bargain” to reduce the debt by as much as $4 trillion over the next decade.

Obama said in his Rose Garden speech that Boehner “walked away from a balanced package.” Boehner, meanwhile, said that Obama’s Monday speech represented “a pretty vivid example of why the president and I were unable to come to an agreement on the big deal, because the president would never say ‘yes’ to real cuts.”

Even as he criticized the White House’s deficit-reduction proposal Monday, Boehner maintained that there are “elements” of Obama’s jobs plan on which the parties may find common ground. Among those areas of potential accord are three long-pending trade deals that may come up for votes as early as this week.

“You will see us move the free trade agreements — if the White House will send them to the Hill, Congress will be ready to pass them,” Boehner said. “When it comes to infrastructure, there may be some common ground in helping to rebuild America’s infrastructure.”

But Boehner voiced opposition to the idea of a national infrastructure bank such as the proposal made by Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.), an idea that Obama touted in his address before a joint session as “the kind of proposal that’s been supported in the past by Democrats and Republicans alike.”

“That’s asking for trouble, and giving the administration ‘walking around cash’ in terms of building projects is not my idea of what Congress’s responsibility is,” Boehner said Monday. “I believe we have got to find a revenue source, get the money out to the states, and let them make good decisions about the needs in their specific states.”

As the bipartisan debt-reduction committee prepares to hold a hearing this week on comprehensive tax reform, Boehner outlined House Republicans’ position on the issue.

“We don’t want to pick winners and losers, except that we do believe that the target for a flatter, fairer tax ought to be about 25 percent on the corporate side and the top rate on the personal side to 25 percent as well,” he said. “Regardless of what kind of business entity you’re running, all business income taxes ought to be the same, regardless if you’re a C corporation, S corporation or a partnership. Bringing those rates down, the only way you’re going to do that is to eliminate a lot of the special provisions in the tax code, some of the deductions in order to bring the rate down so that it’s fair for all companies in America.”

By  |  02:19 PM ET, 09/19/2011

 
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