House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) delivered the following statement on the government shutdown and the federal debt ceiling on Oct. 8 at the U.S. Capitol.
HOUSE SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: Good afternoon, everyone.
As you all know, I had a phone call with the president of the United States this morning. I will say it was a pleasant conversation, although I have to say I was disappointed that the president refuses to negotiate.
When it comes to the issue of funding of our government, the House has passed four bills, four bills to fund our government and provide fairness to the American people under "Obamacare." Each of those four bills was rejected by the United States Senate. Under the Constitution and our system of government, we asked that they sit down and have a conversation with us about funding the government, keeping it open and providing fairness to the American people under "Obamacare." They've refused to do it.
Now over the last 30 years dozens of times there have been negotiations over funding our government. All of those negotiations over the last 30 years have resulted in significant policy changes. And I would remind you that the president of the United States and I sat down in the spring of 2011 to negotiate a funding bill for the government from March all the way through September. During that negotiation there were all kinds of policy considerations and, if you recall, the opportunity scholarships for kids here in D.C. was in fact restored into law.
So the president's position that, listen, we're not going to sit down and talk to you until you surrender, is just not sustainable. It's not our system of government.
When it comes to the debt limit, I agree with the president. We should pay our bills. I didn't come here to shut down the government; I certainly didn't come here to default on our debt. But when it comes to the debt limit, again, over the last 40 years, 27 times, the debt limit has been used to carry significant policy changes that would in fact reduce spending and put us on a saner fiscal path. President Reagan sat down with Tip O'Neill in the 1980s. President Bush in 1990 went out to Andrews Air Force Base and got into a long debate and negotiation with Democrats here in Congress. Bill Clinton went through this three times in the 1990s. President Obama and I sat down in 2011 and had a serious negotiation.
And while the president today suggested that I walked away from the deal, I would have to remind him that I was in the Oval Office along with the majority leader, Eric Cantor, when we in fact had an agreement that two days later the president walked away from.
But there was, in fact, another negotiation in 2011 that resulted in, really, the largest deficit reduction bill that we've seen here in the last 30 years. But in 2010, when Democrats controlled the Congress and President Obama was in the White House, what happened was, a group of moderate Democrats in the House wouldn't agree to raise the debt limit without a negotiation.
So there was a negotiation then amongst Democrats over raising the debt ceiling.
The long and short of it is, there is going to be a negotiation here. We can't raise the debt ceiling without doing something about what's driving us to borrow more money and to live beyond our means. The idea that we should continue to spend money that we don't have and give the bill to our kids and our grandkids would be wrong.
This isn't about me and it's -- frankly, it's not about Republicans. This is about saving the future for our kids and our grandkids, and the only way this is going to happen is to in fact have a conversation. So it's time to have that conversation, not next week, not next month, the conversation ought to start today. And I'm hopeful that whether it's the president or Democrat leaders here in the Congress, we can begin that conversation.
Q: Speaker --
Q: Mr. Speaker, can you tell us please, what would you say to military families who have just been denied death benefits due to the shutdown?
SPEAKER BOEHNER: Last week, the Congress passed the Pay Our Military Benefits Act. We gave broad authority to the Department of Defense to pay all kinds of bills, including this. And frankly, I think it's disgraceful that they're withholding these benefits.
But again, tomorrow, the House is going to act specifically on this and I hope the president will sign it.
Q: Mr. Speaker --
Q: Mr. Speaker, the president -- go ahead.
Q: Mr. Speaker, the president made it extremely clear that he isn't going to negotiate. You are making it extremely clear that you have to negotiate. What happens, in all candor, if it is 11:59 on October 17th and we're not there?
SPEAKER BOEHNER: You know, in times like this, the American people expect their leaders to sit down and have a conversation. I want that conversation to occur now.
Q: Speaker --
Q: Speaker, the president said today that he would negotiate if there was a temporary deal to open government --
SPEAKER BOEHNER: What the president said today was, if there is unconditional surrender by Republicans, he'll sit down and talk to us. That's not the way our government works.
Transcript courtesy of Federal News Service.