CNN anchor and chief Washington correspondent Jake Tapper sat down with Speaker of the House John Boehner today for an exclusive interview that aired during The Lead with Jake Tapper at 4pm ET. A transcript of the interview is after the jump.
On the administration consulting with congress ahead of any potential action on Syria:
“I would hope that he would reach out to the Congress so that we could be part of that process.”
On gun legislation:
“They should actually do a real background check on everyone. And they - the Department of Justice ought to enforce the law… laws don't mean much if they're not going to be enforced.”
On being the highest-ranking American official on American soil for about 20 minutes Tuesday:
“I was the Speaker of the House. That's why I say prayers for President Obama and Vice President Biden every day… I don't want to be president. This is not anything I've ever thought about.”
Boehner on Obama’s remarks about congress this morning:
“So much for the charm offensive [laughter]… I’d rather be heckled than ignored. Or as I like to say, you only tease the ones you love.”
Embeddable video via CNN.com/TheLead:
Boehner on Obama comments: So much for the charm offensive
THIS IS A RUSH FDCH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Mr. Speaker, thanks for doing this.
JOHN BOEHNER, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Congratulations, Jake. Going to be a real success, I think.
TAPPER: I hope so.
So President Obama arrived in Israel today; he had some interesting comments for Prime Minister Netanyahu on the tarmac. He said, "It's good to get away from Congress." Netanyahu laughed and said, "Believe me, I know."
BOEHNER: So much for the charm offensive.
TAPPER: But does that comment actually have any impact, do you think or…?
BOEHNER: No, not really. You know, president's at a meeting with the president of Israel. And he's got his legislative issues. The president's got his.
Comes with the territory.
TAPPER: Comes with the territory.
BOEHNER: I'd rather be heckled than ignored. Or as I'd like to say, you only tease the ones you love.
TAPPER: So White House chief of staff McDonough was on our show yesterday and he said if Syria is using chemical weapons, it's a game-changer and we will act accordingly.
I know that you are not happy with the kind of consultation that congressional leaders were given before the U.S. acted in Libya. Are you similarly concerned about potential action in Syria?
BOEHNER: Well, I do think that the threat that Syria used chemical weapons is a serious one. And I would hope that as the president is making his decision with what our reaction will be, that he will, in fact, consult with the bipartisan leaders in the Congress, something that didn't happen before our involvement with Libya.
This is an important part of the process and I would hope that he would reach out to the Congress so that we could be part of that process.
TAPPER: Have you conveyed that to the White House?
BOEHNER: I have not, but I'm sure they're well aware, after the storm that erupted over Libya.
TAPPER: You said that the House is close to a bipartisan immigration reform package. Mr. Hoyer, Steny Hoyer, the Democratic leader has said that if will include a pathway to citizenship for undocumented workers.
What can you tell us about that?
BOEHNER: Well, my job as Speaker is continuing to help facilitate these bipartisan discussions. And while we've got four Democrats and four Republicans meeting now for four years, they're fairly close to an agreement. There are other members that have not been part of this group that have their own ideas.
So what I'm trying to do is to - is to continue to facilitate a bipartisan discussion about what really is a big problem in our country
TAPPER: The forced budget cuts have already had, in effect, starting tomorrow at Wright-Patterson air base, back in Ohio, it was announced by the base commander that 13,000 civilian employees will start receiving notices about their furloughs.
How concerned are you? And is it a done deal already, the sequester, the forced budget cuts? Can anything be done or have - has the Congress just moved on?
BOEHNER: You know, we've tried in the last 16 months to avert these automatic spending cuts. The president demanded as a result of the agreement on the Budget Act in 2011.
TAPPER: Well, he didn't want them. He wanted them as a threat so that you would come to an agreement.
BOEHNER: The president for his own convenience didn't want another vote on the debt ceiling before his reelection.
BOEHNER: And so he forced this process to occur. And insisted –
TAPPER: But he didn't want a sequester cuts.
BOEHNER: Well, no, he didn't want the cuts. But we have the sequester as a result of his demands And I'm told by my colleagues in the House that the sequester will stay in effect until there's an agreement that will include cuts and reforms that put us on a path to balance the budget over the next 10 years.
TAPPER: But no tax increase?
BOEHNER: No tax increase. The president already got $650 billion worth of tax increases January the 1st. He got a trillion dollars worth of tax increases in ObamaCare. This year, the federal government will bring more revenue in than any year in our history and yet we're still going to have a trillion-dollar budget deficit. Spending is a problem.
TAPPER: The White House said ‘yes it’s true’ taxes went up over $600 billion over 10 years at the end of the year. But it's also true that White House put $1.5 trillion worth of spending cuts in their budget. The truth is you’re both right– they have offered spending cuts. The taxes did go up. It's still (inaudible). You still have to sit down and do something.
BOEHNER: I think we're doing our budget this year. Actually, we're doing it this week here in the House. Our budget will balance in 10 years. We're going to pass our budget, hopefully the Senate will pass their budget. Except their budget never comes to balance.
The president's budget never comes to balance. You can't continue to spend money for as far as the eye can see that you don't have. And that's what they're continuing to propose along with higher taxes on the American people.
TAPPER: But the political reality is no budget deal can probably happen, not one that will seriously address the deficit without Democrats on board and without President Obama on board. And they've already raised taxes.
BOEHNER: They've already got their tax increase in January. How much more do they want to take from the American people?
TAPPER: Yesterday, on his way to Israel, President Obama was in the air (inaudible) on his way back from Rome. You were the highest-ranking American official on American soil for, I think, roughly 20 minutes, half an hour. You were potentially the president.
BOEHNER: No, I wasn't. I was the Speaker of the House. That's why I say prayers for President Obama and Vice President Biden every day.
TAPPER: You don't want to be president?
BOEHNER: I don't want to be president. This is not anything I've ever thought about.
TAPPER: Is there anything you did during this 20 minutes? Is there any - did you, you know, make it mandatory that everybody listen to polka?
BOEHNER: No, no. No.
BOEHNER: Just kept my eyes focused on my job.
TAPPER: Free cigarettes. Nothing at all?
TAPPER: Free happy hours? No?
TAPPER: All right. That's all the time we have. I guess we're going to do a quick walk-and-talk. Thank you so much, Mr. Speaker.
BOEHNER: Nice to see you.
TAPPER: I appreciate you taking the time.
TAPPER: As Speaker of the House, (inaudible) as a dad myself, when Sandy Hook happened, I just wanted to do something, whether it was (inaudible) to make it easier to commit people, or making sure that background checks were better. What was the - what did you feel as a dad?
BOEHNER: Oh, I mean, it was awful. And our hearts go out to those who were the victims of Sandy Hook and these other mass shootings. I'm (inaudible) the president would have focused on the bigger problem, you know, violence in our society.
TAPPER: Do you think background checks and improving background checks will be part of it?
BOEHNER: They should actually do a real background check on everyone. And they - the Department of Justice ought to enforce the law. Then laws are being violated every day; there's no prosecutions coming out of the Department of Justice.
And laws don't mean much if they're not going to be enforced. We've got plenty of laws on the books. Let's go and enforce them before we just load up more laws on law-abiding citizens. Criminals don't respect the law. It will have no effect on them.