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Boehner stakes legacy on extracting more spending cuts

 

House Speaker John Boehner offered a rare glimpse Tuesday into his summer 2011 negotiations with President Obama on a "grand bargain" to rein in spending and address mounting debt.

The Ohio Republican reflected on how the spending fight that plagued Washington last year would affect his legacy, and hinted that he would make another attempt at extracting reforms by using the nation's borrowing limit as a bargaining chip.

In a speech at a Washington conference at fiscal issues, Boehner called the time span between Election Day and the end of the year, during which Congress must address expiring tax cuts and a looming hike in the debt limit, an "action-forcing event."

Boehner spoke of himself in historical terms and seemed to recognize a far-reaching debt deal could cement his legacy as an effective speaker.

“I’m ready, and I’ve been ready. I’m not angling for higher office. This is the last position in government I will hold. I haven’t come this far to walk away," he said. "All my life, I’ve operated by a simple code: if you do the right thing for the reasons, good things will happen. Well, NOW is the time to do the right thing."

Achieving the "right thing" might involve a bipartisan deal along the lines Boehner and President Obama had negotiated during the height of the debt ceiling showdown. But gridlock in Congress, driven by hard-charging conservatives and a deep chasm between the Republican House and the Democratic Senate, has shown that such a deal would be easier said than done.

Boehner's pronouncement that he's seeking no further office, combined with Obama's sentiment that this election is his last, could open the door to a new agreement between the two leaders.

But Boehner also decried the way in which Obama had allegedly "moved the goalposts" during their 2011 talks.

“We were on the verge of an agreement that would have reduced the deficit by trillions, by strengthening entitlement programs and reforming the tax code with permanently lower rates for all, laying the foundation for lasting growth," he said. "But when the president saw his former colleagues in the Senate getting ready to press for tax hikes, he lost his nerve.  The political temptation was too great.  He moved the goalposts, changed his stance, and demanded tax hikes.”

The White House has contended that Boehner never had the GOP votes to achieve a true bipartisan compromise because House Republicans would be reluctant to accept any increase in taxes.