Speaker John Boehner on Tuesday sought to further distance himself from President Barack Obama’s failed “grand bargain” to raise the national debt limit, telling his colleagues during a closed-door meeting that he had never committed to anything in a sweeping $4 trillion plan that the two had been discussing.
Some Republicans have been questioning whether the Ohio Republican had agreed to some or all of the plan, including Obama’s push to decouple the Bush-era tax cuts and change the tax code to raise revenues. A source that attended the meeting said Boehner explicitly told his colleagues: “At no time, ever, during this discussion did I agree to let taxes go up. I haven’t spent 20 years here fighting tax increases just to throw it all away in one moment.”
The source said Boehner laid out Obama’s positions in the weeks-long talks that the two leaders had held. Boehner, the source indicated, said he ultimately came to the conclusion that the president was unwilling to bend on the issue of raising revenues. “That’s when I walked away,” Boehner told those assembled.
“Am I angry about it? I sure as hell am,” the Ohio Republican said bluntly.
While Boehner went on to say the large deal is no longer on the table, he cautioned that Republicans will still need to be prepared to address the debt limit.
Significantly, Boehner also endorsed including a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution as part of the debt limit deal.
The Republican Study Committee and outside activists have demanded such an amendment be tied to the agreement, and Boehner — who has largely not addressed the issue — said he could think of “no better” way to enforce future spending caps than passing the amendment, the source said.
Boehner’s comments in Conference mark a significant hardening of his position, and it is unclear what effect that will have on the ongoing talks with the White House. Boehner, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) are scheduled to join their Senate counterparts at the White House on Tuesday afternoon for the third straight day of negotiations.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., carries a musket on stage as he speaks during the American Conservative Union's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Md., on Thursday March 6, 2014.