Pelosi compares Boehner's tax dilemma to her handling of Iraq war

Congressional leaders are elected to make tough decisions, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Wednesday, and Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) should be willing to risk his Speakership for the sake of securing a fiscal-cliff deal.

"That’s what we all take the job to do, to risk it for something, not to just sit in the office," the former Speaker told reporters in the Capitol.

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Pelosi compared Boehner's dilemma in the fiscal-cliff talks to her struggles as newly elected Speaker in 2007, when she backed legislation funding the troops in Iraq in the face of a liberal base that had put the Democrats in power largely on their promise to end that war.

"I, as Speaker had to make a decision – as a Democratic Speaker with a new Democratic majority, very enthusiastic about ending the war in Iraq – to bring a bill to the floor that funded the troops," she said.

"Do you know what it was like for me to bring a bill to the floor to fund the war in Iraq, a war predicated on a misrepresentation to the American people ... in that war where the President [George W. Bush] said, 'Don’t even think about it, we’re not changing the policy to Iraq?'

"So, it’s tough," she said, "but you have to do it."

Boehner has struggled all Congress to rally his conservative wing behind spending-related proposals, and that dynamic has continued into this month's search for a deal to prevent looming tax increases and spending cuts. Indeed, while a number of more centrist Republicans have indicated a willingness to accept new tax revenues as part of a larger package, dozens of conservative House members are expected to oppose any agreement that includes the tax-rate increases President Obama is demanding.

"I will not be one of the Republicans that caves in to the President’s demands,” Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.) said Wednesday. "We simply cannot tax our way out of debt. It’s impossible."

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The difficult negotiations have led to some talk that Boehner's position as House Speaker might be in jeopardy if he bucks those conservatives to back a fiscal-cliff deal before the GOP leadership elections in January.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), one of Pelosi's top allies, speculated that Boehner is dragging out the fiscal-cliff talks so as not to secure an agreement before then.

"I'm getting increasingly concerned that one of the reasons the Speaker is deciding to, I think, string out these discussions is that he wants to wait 'til Jan. 3, when the election for Speaker takes place, and he's concerned that any agreement he reaches ... could undermine support for him in his caucus and make it more difficult on Jan. 3," Van Hollen said Wednesday at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor.

Pelosi acknowledged that Boehner is in a difficult position. But she didn't mince words when she called on the Speaker to put the nation's economy above any GOP turf wars. The House minority leader said she took her licks from the left on the Iraq war funding and urged Boehner to take a similarly unpopular stand on the fiscal cliff.

"Is the point that you don’t want to put your members on the spot?" she asked. "Figure it out. We did."