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John Boehner: Tackle Debt Before Elections

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) railed against President Barack Obama’s economic agenda, invoking cash-strapped Greece as the ghost of Christmas future.

“People aren't clamoring to invest in Greece today. And if we don't begin to deal with our debt and our deficit ... in an honest and serious way, we're not gonna have many options,” he said on “This Week With George Stephanopoulos.”

Boehner brushed aside the notion of playing dead until November.

"Why do we always have to allow elections to get in the way of doing the right thing?” he said, arguing that Congress should take the lead on the looming debt and tax issues.

“This is about jobs,” he said. “If we really are serious about getting the American people back to work, then removing the clouds of uncertainty are important.”

He conceded, however, that acting on any initiative remains a challenge because of his “pretty disparate caucus.”

“It is hard to keep 218 frogs in a wheelbarrow long enough to get a bill passed,” Boehner said.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) slammed Boehner for threatening to again drag out any debt limit negotiations.

“This is not a responsible, mature, sensible place for us to go,” she said. “We all know we have to reduce the deficit. We have to do it in a balanced way.”

Pelosi said her idea of balance includes dropping the expiring tax breaks for upper-income earners and adopting the fiscal safeguards ingrained in the contentious Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction report. She suggested that if Boehner genuinely wishes to break the current legislative stalemate, he need only bring the universally agreed upon provisions up for consideration.

“I challenge the Speaker right now to bring the middle-income tax cuts to the floor,” she said.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) echoed the Speaker's fears on “Meet the Press,” touting Greece’s insolvency as “a cautionary tale of what might happen to us.” The House Budget chairman defended his cost-slashing budget blueprint, estimating that perhaps more than ever, people will be voting with pocketbooks this fall.

“This is a stagnant economy. It’s going in the wrong direction. That’s what’s on the ballot this November,” Ryan said.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) attempted to downplay Ryan’s doom-and-gloom rhetoric, denouncing the House GOP budget plan as a “sign of tea party dominance.”

“If we really want to bring the deficit down, stick to the Simpson-Bowles approach,” Durbin said.

Correction: May 20, 2012

An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of George Stephanopoulos.

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