Speaker Boehner defends Romney on tax returns, calls issue a ‘sideshow’

House Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerTrump may pose problem for Ryan in Speaker vote Conservatives backing Trump keep focus on Supreme Court Vote House Republicans out MORE on Wednesday gave Rep. Paul RyanPaul RyanCalifornia House Republicans facing tougher headwinds Breitbart escalates war on Paul Ryan GOP: Obama ‘in denial’ about healthcare law failures MORE a brief lesson on presidential surrogacy.

BoehnerJohn BoehnerTrump may pose problem for Ryan in Speaker vote Conservatives backing Trump keep focus on Supreme Court Vote House Republicans out MORE (R-Ohio) leapt to Mitt Romney’s defense at a press conference after Ryan (R-Wis.), a rumored candidate for the vice presidential slot on the GOP ticket, was asked about the presumptive GOP nominee’s refusal to release more than two years of tax returns.

“I’ll refer you to the Romney campaign on those things," Ryan had replied, deflecting the question by referring to automatic spending cuts that Republicans have warned could hurt the economy. "We’re here to talk about the sequester. The sequester is real."

He added: "These side issues are really distractions from the issue at hand, which is the president is not leading, and as a consequence of that Americans are hurting.”

At that point, an animated Boehner jumped to the podium to respond.

“Listen, listen, Americans are asking, where are the jobs? They’re not asking where in the hell the tax returns are.” he said. “This is another sideshow intended to draw the American people’s attention away from the real issue, and the real issue is that the president’s economic policies have failed. They’ve actually made things worse. And as a result, he can’t run on his record. He’s got to run on something else. And so, whether it’s the tax returns, whether it’s Bain Capital, you’ll see every distraction known to man because the president can’t run on his record.”

While Boehner’s answer amplified a point Ryan had begun to make, his response to the tax return question was among the most emphatic any senior Republican has offered to shield Romney from a growing political vulnerability. While Democrats have loudly clamored for more disclosure from the former Massachusetts governor, some Republicans have also begun to urge Romney to release more of his returns to get the issue behind him.

Asked about those Republicans, Boehner held firm.

“It is not about the tax returns. It’s about the economy. The American people vote with their wallet. Bye,” he said, as he ended the press conference.

After a report last week in Vanity Fair detailed offshore accounts held by Romney, Democrats have intensified calls for him to release more tax returns, hoping to paint the GOP contender as out-of-touch with voters amid a weak economy.

Romney, who has released returns from 2010 and an estimate of his 2011 taxes, has rebuffed calls to disclose more of his financial records.

Rep. Sandy Levin (Mich.), the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, said Wednesday he would soon offer legislation requiring presidential candidates to disclose 10 years of their tax returns. 

Separately, the conservative National Review urged Romney to release more returns, arguing that doing so would help Romney get back to his message that Obama has been bad for the economy.

In an effort to tie Romney to outsourcing, Democrats have been playing up discrepancies between when Romney said he left Bain Capital and Securities and Exchange Commission documents that list him as the president and CEO for years later.

Without mentioning Romney, Boehner earlier in the press conference sought to put outsourcing in context.

“We live in a worldwide economy. I frankly don’t think that any U.S. businessman or -woman wants to send jobs overseas,” he said. “Some jobs get created overseas because there are markets overseas.”

The Speaker cited a company based near his Ohio district, Procter & Gamble, that he said had about 6,000 employees in China in order to reach that market.

“You have to be very careful when you begin to talk about jobs that are created in other countries and why they’re created there,” Boehner said.