Armey: Boehner has ‘toughest job’ in Washington

“He’s got a seriously divided majority in the House. He’s got a dysfunctional Senate, that’s questionable whether they can do anything over there. And they’ve got a president who said, basically, 'You give me what I want, once you agree to that, I’ll talk to you,' ” said Armey in an interview Monday on CBS’s “This Morning.”

Armey suggested that Boehner had little room to maneuver and that for a deficit deal to be reached before a set of tax-rate hikes and massive spending cuts taking effect in January, President Obama needed to show Boehner “real negotiating vigor.”

Armey’s comments come after Boehner and Obama sat down on Sunday, for their first face-to-face meeting in weeks to discuss the fiscal cliff. Aides for both sides would not share details of the conversation but said “lines of communication remain open.” 

The meeting was seen as a positive sign in Washington after Boehner last week blasted Obama, saying that there had been “no progress” in talks since Republicans unveiled a counteroffer that would cut the deficit by $2.2 trillion.

Both sides are at an impasse on tax rates, with Democrats insisting that any final deal include higher rates on the wealthy. Republican leaders say they are open to new revenues, but from closing loopholes and deductions. 

But more GOP lawmakers say they are willing to raise taxes on the top 2 percent of income earners in exchange for serious entitlement reform. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) on Sunday said accepting Obama’s proposal on tax rates might present the “best route” to securing the spending cuts and reform the GOP seeks.

Armey, though, expressed skepticism that conceding on taxes would win Republicans future spending cuts.

“Time after time after time what we got from the Democrats was ‘Give us the tax increases now, we'll give you the spending cuts later.’ [The] spending cuts never showed up,” said Armey.

But the former Texas lawmaker said the latest meeting between Boehner and Obama could signal that the president was ready to put more on the table.

“They just met again yesterday; maybe there’s reason to be hopeful that the president is really going to sit down and work with him, I mean work with him, as opposed to tell him what I require.”

Armey also defended the record of the Tea Party, and said the movement was not holding Boehner and Republicans back from signing a grand bargain to reduce the deficit. 

Armey last month stepped down from FreedomWorks, a prominent Tea Party group, after a disagreement over the organization’s direction. 

On Monday, Armey said that the GOP failure to capture the White House and Senate could not be blamed on the Tea Party.

“We had a lot of candidates, quite frankly, who did dumb things out there,” he said. “I don’t think the Republican Party schooled their candidates very well or supported their candidates very well.

“We had at least two candidates who should have won who frankly lost because they said stupid things on a subject their leaders should have warned them to stay away from in the first place,” he added, a seeming reference to GOP candidates Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) and Richard Mourdock, who lost Senate races in Missouri and Indiana after controversial statements when explaining their opposition to abortion rights.