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John Boehner's biggest regret: failed debt-ceiling deal

November 04, 2011|By Lisa Mascaro, Washington Bureau
(Pete Souza / White House )

House Speaker John A. Boehner said his biggest regret since taking the helm with the GOP majority is that he and President Obama were unable to agree to a grand bargain to cut the nation’s deficits and debt.

Taking a spin through the last year since Republicans won the House, boosting him to the job he long wanted, Boehner reflected on what has come to pass since that November victory. He leads an often unruly majority, with more than 80 freshmen, many of whom won backing from the conservative tea party and unwilling to compromise on core fiscal issues.

"Listen, I knew it was going to be hard," Boehner told reporters in his suite in the Capitol.

The year has been consumed by the budget battles that have come to define the Republican majority that has risked shutting down the government and defaulting on the nation’s obligations in its pursuit of spending cuts.

Boehner and Obama spent weeks negotiating an ultimately unsuccessful "grand bargain" that would have reduced deficits with a mix of spending cuts and new revenue. Boehner walked away from those talks over the White House’s insistence on tax revenue the GOP would not accept.

It is a scenario that is playing out again as the congressional super-committee on deficit reduction tries to craft a similar deal by its Thanksgiving deadline, or trigger automatic spending cuts that both sides want to avoid.

"The biggest regret I’ve had this year is the president and I weren’t able to come to an agreement on solving our short- and mid-term deficit and debt problems," Boehner said.

The speaker suggested rank-and-file lawmakers had learned from those battles, as he remained hopeful the super-committee could present Congress with a deficit-reduction deal – even though it will be "painful."

"The members are in a different place than they used to be. I think they understand the gravity of the situation they face -- and I’m talking about Democrats and Republicans," Boehner said. "I think a lot of them are ready to deal with it."

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