Boehner: Repeal Obamacare or It Will ‘Ruin’ Health System and ‘Bankrupt Our Country’

By Terence P. Jeffrey | September 12, 2010 | 4:21 PM EDT

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R.-Ohio), who likely would become speaker of the House if the Republicans take back control of the House of Representatives in the November elections, said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that he wants to repeal the health-care law that President Barack Obama signed in March and replace it with less intrusive health-care reforms proposed by the Republican Party because he believes Obamacare will ruin the nation’s health care system while bankrupting the country.

House Republican Leader John Boehner of Ohio speaks t a news conference on Capitol Hill on Thursday, March 4, 2010. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

In a Gallup poll released one month ago that measured how Americans approve of Obama's performance on specific issues, 57 percent said they “disapprove” of the way Obama is handling the health-care issue. That poll was conducted Aug. 5-8, more than four months after Obama and a Democratically controlled Congress enacted a landmark health-care reform law that mandates that all Americans must have a health-insurance policy that meets certain criteria set by the government.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, this legislation marks the first time in the history of the United States that the federal government has required individuals to purchase any good or service. Boehner’s remarks on CBS’s “Face the Nation” may serve to sharpen the focus of the November election as a referendum on whether Obamacare will be fully implemented. 

As the law is currently written, the mandate forcing Americans to buy a government-approved health insurance plan will not take effect until 2014—two years after the next presidential election.

“You have said your Number 1 priority is to repeal the health care legislation,” CBS’s “Face the Nation” host Bob Schieffer said to Boehner. “Do you mean the entire bill, including some of the things that are so overwhelmingly popular, like the prohibition on discrimination based on pre-existing conditions for children or allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ plans until they are 26?”

“What I want to do is repeal the Obamacare and replace it with common sense reforms that will bring down the cost of health insurance and protect American jobs,” said Boehner. “And the things that you rattle off are the kinds of things that both parties agree to and we agreed to before the health care bill went into law. The Republicans outlined eight or nine ideas--including those--that really would bring down the cost of health insurance without putting the government in charge of our health care.

“You need to understand that in my opinion Obamacare will ruin the best health care system in the world and it will bankrupt our country,” said Boehner.

Boehner also said that for the government to spur job creation in the private sector federal spending needs to be controlled and all of the income-tax-rate cuts enacted during the Bush administration—which are set to expire at the end of this year—should be extended.

“What I have said repeatedly is we need to control spending in Washington, D.C.,” said Boehner. “We need to remove the uncertainty that clouds our economy from all these new policies and programs being enacted by this Congress. And we need to provide certainty in terms of what the tax rates are going to be. And I believe that extending all the current tax rates would be a very good sign to the private sector that we expect to create jobs in our country.”

Boehner did state that if the current congressional leadership gave him no choice but to vote for extending the Bush tax cuts only for Americans and small businesses earning less than $250,000 per year--while allowing the tax cuts to expire for individuals and small businesses earning more than that--he would vote for such legislation. But he made clear that his preference would be to continue all of the lower tax rates enacted under Bush.

"I think raising taxes in a very weak economy is a really, really bad idea, and most economists would agree with that," Boehner said. "And I just think that if we're going to extend the tax cuts for some Americans, why don't we extend these current tax rates to all Americans, and get rid of some of the uncertainty that's out there, so that small businesses can plan, and reinvest in their business, and the new economy?"

Schieffer asked Boehner if, by insisting on continuing the lower tax rates for those earning more than $250,000 per year, Boehner would be holding the tax cuts “hostage” for lower income people.

"I want to do something for all Americans who pay taxes," Boehner said. "You have to understand, Bob, that there are large majorities of Democrats in the House and Senate. They haven’t reached out to us for the last 20 months.  It’s not Republicans standing  in the way here. There’s a growing chorus of Democrats in both the House and Senate who believe we should extend the current tax rates for all Americans. When you look at who’s going to be taxed, about half of all small business income will be taxed under the President’s proposal. These are the very people that we expect to invest in the economy and to start creating jobs. Why would we want to punish them?”

Schieffer challenged Boehner’s assertion, noting that Congress's Joint Committee on Taxation said that “only 3 percent of those small business people” would be affected by allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire for those earning more than $250,000. Schieffer asked Boehner if he “quarreled” with that analysis.

“Well, it may be three percent [of small business people], but it is half of small business income,” Boehner said, “because obviously the top 3 percent have half of the gross income for those companies that we would term small businesses. You don’t want to punish these people at a time when you have a weak economy. We need them to reinvest in their business.”

Boehner made clear he would support legislation this year to continue the lower tax rates for only those earning under $250,000 per year if that was the only alternative the current congressional leadership allowed. 

“If the only option I have is to vote for some of those tax reductions, I'll vote for it," he said. "But I've been making the point now for months that we need to extend all the current rates for all Americans if we want to get our economy going again, and we want to get jobs in America."

Boehner made clear that in his view it would be “bad policy” to increase the tax rates for individuals and small businesses earning more than $250,000 per year, and that he would fight for an across the board extension of the lower tax rates enacted under President Bush.

“If the only option I have is to vote for those at $250,000 and below, of course I'm going to do that,” said Boehner. “But I'm going to do everything I can to fight to make sure that we extend the current tax rates for all Americans."