Boehner Promises 'Alternatives' to Obama's Policies, Says Defaulting on Debt Is 'Wrong'

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

CAMBRIDGE, Md. — Speaker John A. Boehner said Thursday that Republicans want to avoid a default on the debt — while coming up with alternatives to President Barack Obama's policies on a variety of issues including immigration and the economy.  

"This afternoon we're going to have a conversation about the debt limit," Boehner said. "We know what the obstacles are that we face, but we believe that defaulting on our debt is the wrong thing. We don't want to do that."  

More broadly, the Ohio Republican said the GOP needs to show the public it's "not just the opposition party, we're actually the alternatives party."  

As for those alternatives, details were scant. Republicans are also slated to have a conversation on immigration Thursday, where GOP leaders are expected to hand down a list of "principles" of an immigration overhaul. Boehner said he thinks the current immigration system is "unfair," and he said it was "time to deal with it."  

"But how we deal with it is the issue that we face," he said.  

When asked about a pathway to citizenship, Boehner deferred.  

"We're going to talk to our members today," Boehner said.  

But the Ohio Republican did reaffirm his commitment to handling immigration with a piece-by-piece approach, lauding it as a way to help members and constituents "understand the bite-size pieces."  

Other leaders also sounded the alternatives theme.  

Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said the discussion at the retreat "is going to be not just about opposing the policies this president has been about the over the last couple years ... but it is to craft an alternative for the people of this country so that we can see an America that works for everybody."  

Republicans also dinged the president and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., for not being on the same page when it comes to trade promotion authority. (On Wednesday, Reid said he was "against fast tracking " a trade promotion bill, something President Barack Obama called for in his State of the Union speech.)  

Daniel Newhauser contributed to this report.