Increase Taxes? Boehner: 'We All Know What the Menu of Possibilities Are'

By Edwin Mora | May 17, 2012 | 5:42 PM EDT

( – When asked whether he would include “a revenue component,” i.e., taxes, in his negotiations with Democrats and the White House over raising the debt ceiling, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) did not answer directly but instead said “we all know what the menu of possibilities are.”

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During last summer's negotiations with the White House over raising the debt ceiling (in early August), the Republican House leadership, including Boehner, maintained that tax increases were off the table, not a component of the talks.

At a Capitol Hill press conference on Thursday, a reporter asked Boehner, “You said you wanted spending cuts and tax reforms as a condition of the debt limit [being raised]. Could those budget reforms include a revenue component that would have new revenue as scored on a so-called static basis, as opposed to just what would come from the growth through tax reform?”

Boehner said, “Listen, we all know what the menu of possibilities are -- from reforms to reductions to changes to save the entitlement programs, tax reform that would bring us real economic growth and quite likely a more efficient tax system.”

“We all know what the menu is, frankly,” he said. “The president and I had a pretty productive talk. Never got to where we wanted to get, but we all know this is coming and it struck me as somewhat comical here over the last couple of days that people are looking at me like I’m the guy carrying a sword around town and am going to bludgeon someone. All I’m suggesting is, it’s time for us to talk about this. We know when we get to the end of the year we’re going to have to deal with it, so why are we going to wait?”

The federal government has the option of raising taxes to create new revenue, which is something Democrats support. However, Republicans in general oppose raising taxes and prefer to cut federal spending and trim bureaucratic waste.

House Speaker John Boehner, President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid discussing debt-limit legislation at the White House on July 7, 2011. (AP photo)

By early 2013, after the presidential election, the U.S. treasury is expected to reach its $16.4 trillion borrowing limit. Currently, the national debt stands an estimated $800 billion under that ceiling. (The debt ceiling is the total amount of money the federal government is legally allowed to borrow; to raise that ceiling, Congress must pass a bill to do so and the president must sign it.)

“The reality is that the danger of a [credit] downgrade comes from continued inaction on the deficit, and our piling debt – not for calls for action,” Speaker Boehner told reporters.  “We can use the debt limit debate to force Washington to act:  to cut spending and enact some of the real reforms that will help put America on a path to prosperity.”

“The White House wants to raise the debt limit without a single dime of spending cuts or reforms,” said Boehner. “Listen, with nearly $16 trillion in debt already, it’s just not, it’s not credible.”

“America deserves a better economic future,” he said. “America can’t wait.  And we need a president who will show up and work with us – both Democrats and Republicans – to address these pressing concerns.”

In a speech to a Peterson Foundation economic forum on Wednesday, Boehner said, "When the time comes, I will again insist on my simple principle of cuts and reforms greater than the debt-limit increase. This is the only avenue I see right now to force the elected leadership of this country to solve our structural fiscal imbalance."

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