Boehner Negotiated Debt-Limit Hike 'While Having Merlot and Smoking a Cigarette'

By Melanie Arter | September 17, 2012 | 12:58pm EDT

House Speaker John Boehner meeting with President Barack Obama at the White House on Jan. 23, 2011. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

( – Speaking on CSPAN’s “Washington Journal” on Monday, Washington Post Associate Editor Bob Woodward said House Speaker John Boehner (R.-Ohio) drank Merlot and smoked a cigarette and President Barack Obama drank iced tea and chewed Nicorette gum as the two met at the White House to negotiate increasing the federal government's debt limit.

“They’re having these private meetings in the White House - what Boehner calls the Merlot and Nicorette meetings. Just a week before that, he goes down to the White House, and they have a meeting on the patio off the Oval Office, and as Boehner says and Obama confirmed when I interviewed him, Boehner’s having Merlot and smoking a cigarette, and the president is having ice tea and chewing a Nicorette to keep him from going back to smoking,” Woodward said.

“I understand that this is going to take sacrifice and it is going to take political capital on both sides, and I’m certainly willing to take my fair share of it, but if we’re going to take political capital, then let’s step up and do the big thing and the right thing for the country,”’ Boehner said at a July 7, 2011 press conference.

After showing the clip of Boehner, the host of “Washington Journal” asked Woodward, “What’s going on behind the scenes?”

“Oh, it’s so much,” Woodward said.

“And they start the process, but what intervenes is politics. And the politics is that the president can’t control the Democratic Party and Boehner can’t control the House Republicans,” said Woodward.

“And it’s fascinating to hear their internal debates up … in the Capitol--the Republicans and then down in the White House and then you see them coming together, and I have elaborate notes from the meetings and discussions and interviews, and you can see there’s a level of seriousness and engagement,” he said.

“I would argue given the magnitude of the problem that … no one quite had the stamina to do the details and make sure that this worked. Of course it was convenient for everyone to put it off ‘til 2013 so it wouldn’t be an election issue, so no one would be out there suggesting or having advanced or let alone vote or enacted a law that involved pain,” Woodward added.

Woodward was discussing his book, “The Price of Politics,” which describes how the president Congress dealt with increasing the debt limit.

On Aug. 2 of last year, Obama signed a bill that Boehner had moved through the Republican-majority House of Representatives that increased the federal debt limit, giving the Treasury the authority to borrow another $2.1 trillion to $2.4 trillion. 

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