Speaker Boehner: "We're Not Going to Pass a Clean Debt Limit Increase" (ABC News/'This Week' Interview)

Below is Speaker John Boehner's exclusive interview with George Stephanopoulos on ABC News' 'This Week'. I quoted Boehner's words on the debt ceiling and the possibility of a debt default from the official transcript.



STEPHANOPOULOS: How is this going to end? You're clearly not budging right now, even though you are taking -- even though polls show that most Americans blame Republicans for the shutdown right now. How long is it going to go on? Is the government going to stay shut down until we reach the debt limit deadline of October 17th?

BOEHNER: Listen, the debt limit is right around the corner. The president is saying, I won't negotiate. I won't have a conversation. Even though, President Reagan negotiated with Democrats who controlled the Congress back then. Even though President George Herbert Walker Bush had a conversation about raising the debt limit. During the Clinton administration, there were three fights over the debt limit. You and I participated in several of those. And even President Obama himself in 2011, went through a negotiation.

Now, he's saying no. I'm not going to do this.

I'm going to tell you what, George. The nation's credit is at risk because of the administration's refusal to sit down and have a conversation.

STEPHANOPOULOS: They're saying it's at risk because of your refusal to pass a clean debt limit. There have been some reports--

BOEHNER: We're not going to pass a clean debt limit increase.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Under no circumstances?

BOEHNER: I told the president, there's no way we're going to pass one. The votes are not in the House to pass a clean debt limit. And the president is risking default by not having a conversation with us.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So under no circumstances will you pass a clean debt limit?

BOEHNER: We're not going down that path. It is time to deal with America's problems. How can you raise the debt limit and do nothing about the underlying problem?

George, we've spent more than what we've brought in for 55 of the last 60 years. This year, the federal government will have more revenue than any year in the history of our country, and yet we're still going to have a nearly $700 billion budget deficit. We're squandering the future for our kids and our grandkids, by not dealing with this problem.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The deficit, as you know, has been coming down this year, but I want to press you on this issue of the risks of not passing a clean debt limit. The Treasury Department put out a report just the other day, where they said it would be unprecedented and catastrophic, that would be the impact of failing to pass a debt limit. They're going to say, credit markets could freeze. The value of the dollar could plummet. U.S. interest rates could skyrocket. The negative spillovers could reverberate around the world, and there might be a financial crisis and recession that could echo the events of 2008 or worse.

Do you agree with that assessment?

BOEHNER: I do. And the president is putting the nation at risk by his refusal to sit down and have a conversation.

STEPHANOPOULOS: As -- we're going to go back on this. He says you're putting it at risk by refusing to pass a clean debt limit, so just let me -- let me press that, because there have been some reports that you have told your own members that you would be willing to put a debt limit on the floor that would pass with Democratic votes, even if it didn't get a majority of the Republican caucus. Is that no longer true?

BOEHNER: My goal here is not to have the United States default on their debt. My goal here is to have a serious conversation about those things that are driving the deficit and driving the debt up. And the president's refusal to sit down and have a conversation about this is putting our nation at risk of default.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So are you saying that if he continues to refuse to negotiate, the country is going to default?

BOEHNER: That's the path we're on. The president canceled his trip to Asia. I assumed -- well, maybe he wants to have a conversation. I decided to stay here in Washington this weekend. He knows what my phone number is. All he has to do is call.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So it's October 17th, 8:00 p.m. The clock is ticking towards midnight. The country is scheduled to run out of money, won't be able to pay its bills anymore. What do you do in that moment?

BOEHNER: No family in America can spend more than what it brings in for 55 of the last 60 years. No family or business in America can survive a $700 billion budget deficit in one year. It is time for us to deal with our underlying spending problems.

I'm willing to sit down and have a conversation with the president. But his refusal to negotiate is putting our country at risk.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So the clock is ticking on October 17th. You're not going to put that bill on the floor?

BOEHNER: I want to deal with our underlying problem.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes or no, would you put that bill on the floor?

BOEHNER: I don't want the United States to default on its debt. But I'm not going to raise the debt limit without a serious conversation about dealing with problems that are driving the debt up. It would be irresponsible of me to do this.

STEPHANOPOULOS: It's also been reported that you're going to guarantee that we do not default. It sounds like you're not prepared to offer that guarantee, you're not prepared to promise you would actually put the bill on the floor.

BOEHNER: I've been willing to sit down with the president and have this conversation. His refusal to negotiate is what's putting the government at risk of default.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So you sit down with the president. What would you offer him in that conversation?

BOEHNER: Let's look at what's driving the problem. 10,000 baby-boomers like me retiring, every single day. 70,000 this week. 3.5 million this year. And it's not like there's money in Social Security or Medicare. The government, over the last 30 years, have spent it all. And so now, we're in this whipsaw effect. This is only year three. This is going to go on for another 22 years as baby-boomers retire. We know these programs are important to tens of millions of Americans. But if we don't address the underlying problems, they are not sustainable.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So you're saying you want a conversation now about changes in Social Security, changes in Medicare, changes in entitlements? Would you be willing to accept what the president has demanded for that kind of a negotiation, having new revenues as part of the discussion?

BOEHNER: The president got $850 billion -- $650 billion of new revenues on January the 1st. He got his revenues. Now, it's time to talk about the spending problem.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So that's a no?

BOEHNER: Very simple. We're not raising taxes.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You see, I'm not hearing much new here this morning. I don't think the country is hearing much new here this morning from either the president or from you and House Republicans. How is this going to end?

BOEHNER: George, it's going to end when the president decides they'll allow Harry Reid to talk to me, or allow Patty Murray to talk to Paul Ryan. The president just can't sit there and say, I'm not going to negotiate.

STEPHANOPOULOS: What the president says is he believes that the consequences of negotiating again over a debt limit and re-creating a cycle of crises are worse.

BOEHNER: Every president in modern history has negotiated over a debt limit. Debt limits have been used to force big policy changes in Washington. And guess what, George? They're going to be used again.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Is there a way for this to be solved in some kind of parallel tracks? Both of you say you're not going to be giving in on your conditions, but basically, you both do.

BOEHNER: George, I'm ready for the phone call. I'm ready for a conversation. I'll take anybody on the Democrats' side who wants to seriously sit down and begin to work out this problem. I'm a reasonable guy. I'm a reasonable guy. But I didn't come to Washington to be a congressman. I came here to do something on behalf of my country.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So bottom line, you're saying this is your absolute position. If the president continues to refuse to negotiate over the debt limit, if Democrats refuse to continue to negotiate over the government shutdown, the government is going to remain closed and the United States is going to default?

BOEHNER: The president -- the president, his refusal to talk, is resulting in a possible default on our debt. All he has to do is pick up the phone. This is the most reasonable thing in the world. I think the American people understand, why wouldn't they talk to each other? I'm ready to talk. I've been ready to talk.

STEPHANOPOULOS: When is this going to end?

BOEHNER: If I knew, I would tell you.

Source: http://abcnews.go.com/ThisWeek/week-transcript-house-speaker-john-boehner/story?id=20476180&singlePage=true

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