House Speaker Rep. John Boehner of Ohio (Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin)
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said he believes the primary goal of President Obama’s second term is to “annihilate the Republican Party.”
“Given what we heard yesterday about the president’s vision for his second term, it’s pretty clear to me that he knows he can’t do any of that as long as the House is controlled by Republicans,” Boehner said in a speech Tuesday to The Ripon Society. “So we’re expecting over the next 22 months to be the focus of this administration as they attempt to annihilate the Republican Party.
“And let me just tell you, I do believe that is their goal — to just shove us into the dustbin of history.”
Boehner’s remarks referred to Obama’s inaugural address. Republicans were hopeful the president would use that speech to lay the groundwork for a partnership over the next four years, but he instead made it a rallying cry for an active federal government — including on such politically charged issues as climate change, gun control, gay marriage and immigration.
The Republican leader ripped the president for not taking the country’s deficits seriously, and said the failure of the “fiscal cliff” talks last year reflected the president’s refusal to face facts on the budget.
“In our meetings before Christmas, the president was so tired of me talking about when we were going to deal with an entitlement crisis that he looked at me and said: ‘Boehner, we don’t have a spending problem. We have a healthcare problem.’ It gives you some idea of the challenge that we’re facing,” Boehner said.
“For a guy who’s run up the deficit 60 percent — 60 percent of the deficit has occurred under his watch — when you see this, and then you hear him say: ‘I am not going to negotiate on the debt limit. I am not going to deal with the debt limit. That’s Congress’s problem!’ … Frankly, I think it’s irresponsible.”
Boehner’s speech was not open to the press, but The Ripon Society, a Republican think tank, released a transcript and video on Wednesday with the knowledge of the Speaker’s office.
While Boehner has said that immigration reform should be a priority, his remarks on Tuesday are a clear signal to Obama that his ambitious agenda on climate change and gun control, among other proposals, will face heavy resistance in the Republican-led House.
Boehner urged his conservative colleagues to be prudent in picking their political battles, something that wasn’t a trademark of Republicans in the 112th Congress.
“We’re going to have to make some big decisions about how we as a party take on this challenge. Where’s the ground that we fight on? Where’s the ground that we retreat on? Where are the smart fights? Where are the dumb fights that we have to stay away from? We’ve got a lot of big decisions to make.”
House Republicans backed away from a showdown with Obama over the debt-ceiling on Wednesday, passing legislation that suspends the cap on government borrowing through May 18.
That’s part of a new strategy from House Republicans to embrace a minority posture in the face of Obama’s reelection. Rather than trying to force measures through the Democratic-led Senate, House GOP leaders are looking to achieve modest victories while serving as a check on Obama’s agenda.
Boehner’s speech to The Ripon Society followed the House Republican retreat last week, and was another attempt to unify his conference ahead of budget battles with the White House.
The Speaker said Republicans should steel their resolve for the fights to come.
“We’ve got the debt limit facing us and the sequester hits on March 1st. If all that isn’t enough, the government runs out of money on March 27th. No one really knows what will happen. But I’m not quite sure I want to look over the edge of the cliff when it comes to the debt limit,” Boehner said.
“All I know is I’m up for the fight.”
This story was last updated at 3:42 p.m.