Boehner: 'Not going to apologize for leading' on debt-ceiling debate

Interview begins at 2:02 mark.

House Speaker John Boehner said Sunday morning he's "not going to apologize for leading" by challenging President Obama to a potential debt ceiling stand-off this summer. 

"The real issue here is will the president lead?" Boehner (R-Ohio) asked on ABC's "This Week." 


Boehner last week laid out what many observers considered a challenge to the president over raising the debt ceiling, or federal authority for the government to borrow, which is likely to be needed by the end of the year. Boehner warned that he would insist on dollar-for-dollar spending cuts for any increase in the debt ceiling, shifting the conversation last week from Obama's "to do" list for Congress.

The White House returned that Boehner wanted to "play chicken" on the economy and was looking for a repeat of last summer's debt-ceiling "debacle," which ultimately resulted in a lowered credit rating for the United States.

Boehner said he wants to act now to confront over-spending, tackle the tax code and enact spending cuts in order to "remove the clouds of uncertainty" over the economy, which is why he is bringing up the debt ceiling now, months ahead of a real deadline for the increase.

"It's important that we actually do what the American people sent us here to do," Boehner argued. "Why do we always have to allow elections to get in the way of doing the right thing?"

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Democrats, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in a separate interview on the same program, have challenged Boehner's authority over his own caucus. Last summer, many charged that the Tea Party wing of the party were holding the economy "hostage" to their ideology.

Boehner acknowledged that he leads "a pretty disparate caucus," including 89 "brand new members" in the freshman class elected on a wave of Tea Party activism in 2010. Many freshman members took a hard line approach to the debt ceiling last summer, with several refusing to vote to raise the debt limit at all due to their concern over the national debt.

"It is hard to keep 218 frogs in a wheelbarrow long enough to get a bill passed," Boehner said. "We always have some members who wanna do more. I wanna do more too."

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But Boehner denied that his caucus has refused to work with Democrats, pointing to at least 30 jobs-related bills passed by the House with bipartisan support. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney last week charged that only Obama has shown willingness to compromise in negotiations over the debt ceiling, despite insisting on a "balanced approach" that includes both increased revenues and spending cuts.

"If we weren't trying to do big things on behalf of our country, my job would be a lot easier," Boehner said. But when you're trying to do big things, very controversial, it's hard work. I'll be the first one to admit it."

Boehner also said he feels "good" about Republican chances to retain the House in November, but added that "you never know what's gonna happen over the next six months."