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Boehner denies he's a 'surrenderist,' says debt-limit fight will be brutal

May 10, 2011|By James Oliphant | Washington Bureau
  • Speaker John Boehner, on NBC's "Today," said he supported radical changes to Medicare.
Speaker John Boehner, on NBC's "Today," said he supported… (NBC )

As part of his trip to the Big Apple, House Speaker John Boehner appeared on NBC’s "Today" show Tuesday, defending the Paul Ryan budget and saying a tax increase to help erode the budget deficit was “off the table.”

Boehner, who in a speech on Wall Street on Monday night said that a failure to raise the federal debt ceiling would be “irresponsible,” agreed with interviewer Matt Lauer that the fight over that increase would make the razor’s-edge negotiations in April over a potential government shutdown look like child’s play. He said that any agreement to raise the limit will have to be tied to significant spending cuts. “This is a window of opportunity for us to address the big challenges that face our country,” Boehner said.

He also backstopped Ryan’s plan to radically modify Medicare, saying the entitlement program would collapse without major changes. “It’s time to look each other in the eye and do what we know has to be done,” the Ohio Republican said.

Democratic and Republicans from the Hill will meet with Vice President Biden again Tuesday to negotiate a plan to attack the federal deficit, but Boehner said he won’t support a tax increase to help remedy the shortfall and refused to accept Lauer’s proposition that the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy failed to create jobs. The cuts created 8 million jobs, 5 million of which were lost in the recession, Boehner said.

“You can’t tax the very people we expect to invest in our economy and create jobs,” he said.

Boehner also refused to take Lauer’s bait regarding Donald Trump as a possible Republican presidential candidate (that question seems so two weeks ago) but praised ex-Speaker Newt Gingrich, expected to formally announce his candidacy this week, as well as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, both of whom have yet to say they will run for president, as worthy contenders.

The speaker brushed aside criticism from "tea party" activists (who, according to Lauer, have labeled Boehner a “surrenderist”) and Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, who suggested that Boehner rolled over in the shutdown negotiations.

 “I’m a regular guy with a big job,” Boehner said. “I went to Washington 20 years ago because I thought government was too big, spent too much and was not being held accountable. I don’t feel any differently today. And this impending debt load on our kids has to be dealt with -- and it will be dealt with.” Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

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