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Boehner also talks budget cuts, safety net

Also asked today by NBC's Brian Williams which government program the U.S. government could do without, John Boehner responded that he couldn't name one off the top of his head.

"I don't think I have one off the top of my head," he said. "But there is no part of this government that should be sacred. Uh, I believe there's room, to find savings in the Department of Defense. There are a lot of needs at the Department of Defense. And I think Secretary Gates has a reasonable plan to allow the service chiefs to go in there and root out wasteful spending -- so they can find the money that they're going to need to make sure that we have the weapons of the future."

Williams then asked him what the bare minimum of government should be. The speaker's answer: "Well, clearly, I believe in the safety net. You know, we live in a competitive society. We live in a capitalist society. For those who can compete and do well, fine. Some Americans can't compete. I think we have a responsibility as a people to help those who can't compete. But do we have a responsibility to help those who won't compete? I would have serious doubts about that."

Here's the exchange:

Williams: Do you consider the defense budget, sacred? Do you consider...

Boehner: Absolutely not.

Williams: Do you consider the homeland security budget sacred?

Boehner: No!

Williams: What goes?

Boehner: Listen...

Williams: Name a program right now that we could do without.

Boehner: "I don't think I have one off the top of my head. But there is no part of this government that should be sacred. Uh, I believe there's room, to find savings in the Department of Defense. There are a lot of needs at the Department of Defense. And I think Secretary Gates has a reasonable plan to allow the service chiefs to go in there and root out wasteful spending -- so they can find the money that they're going to need to make sure that we have the weapons of the future."

Williams: What's the bare minimum we should expect from our government? You and I. What are the services beyond which you won't go.

Boehner: Well, clearly, I believe in the safety net. You know, we live in a competitive society. We live in a capitalist society. For those who can compete and do well, fine. Some Americans can't compete. I think we have a responsibility as a people to help those who can't compete. But do we have a responsibility to help those who won't compete? I would have serious doubts about that.

The rest of the interview will air on "Nightly News" beginning at 6:30 pm ET.

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