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House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio

Carolyn Kaster, Associated Press

Boehner says candidates, not ideas, led to Republican losses in November

  • Article by: JONATHAN WEISMAN
  • New York Times
  • March 14, 2013 - 10:21 PM

– House Speaker John Boehner suggested on Thursday that candidates and personalities — not Republican proposals on Medicare and spending cuts — contributed to Republican losses in November, as he vowed to press forward with a House budget plan that renews the push to shrink the government.

In short, Boehner, R-Ohio, said in an interview, November’s election losses would not deter his party from pressing its vision of reducing the size of government and turning government health care programs largely over to the private sector.

“There are a lot of things that decide an election, especially the two candidates that you have, the personalities that they have, positions they have taken,” he said.

“There are a lot of factors that went into that election,” he added. “I don’t know that that’s the issue. Eighty percent of the American people think that Washington has a spending problem.”

The release this week of a Republican budget that employs spending cuts and an overhaul of benefit programs to balance the budget in 10 years has led some to question why Republicans are sticking with that approach after losing the presidency as well as seats in the House and Senate last November.

Although he expressed some hope that the Republican House and Democratic Senate could reach a deficit accord, Boehner gave little indication that President Obama’s outreach to Republicans had yielded any tangible movement. The president met with Senate Republicans and House Democrats on Thursday.

Boehner also put the failure of his private budget talks with the president squarely on the White House’s shoulders, saying that avenue toward agreement was now closed. “I gave the president my bottom line, and he didn’t budge off it,” Boehner said. “We offered to continue to have the talks. It was the White House who said, ‘Well, there isn’t really any reason to.’ ”

While the president has indicated he is ready to move beyond the endless budget negotiations, the speaker said he was not. “I’ve spent two-plus years at it,” he said. “We’re going to stay at it.”

The Republican budget, which will come to a vote in the full House next week, seeks to bring taxes and spending into balance within 10 years, largely by rolling back the accomplishments of the president’s first term. It would repeal the president’s health insurance exchanges and expansion of Medicaid but retain cuts to Medicare. It would maintain the level of taxation secured by tax increases on the wealthy in the January deal to resolve the so-called fiscal cliff. But it also says the top tax rate should fall to 25 percent from 39.6 percent, with the cost offset by eliminating undisclosed tax deductions, credits and loopholes. And it assumes the repeal of Obama’s Wall Street regulatory bill. Medicaid, food stamps and other programs for the poor would be cut significantly, part of $4.6 trillion in cuts through 2023.

“The budget is an opportunity to lay out your priorities, what your party believes in,” Boehner said.

It was not clear, however, how those priorities are to be meshed with a Senate Democratic budget that would expand spending on infrastructure, raise taxes and still end up with a budget deficit of $566 billion at the end of the 10-year window.

“His budget was roundly defeated last November. I can’t imagine why they don’t get a new dance step here,” Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, said of the Republican plan, drafted by Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the Budget Committee chair.

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