CNBC Exclusive: CNBC Transcript: Maria Bartiromo Speaks with Speaker of the House John Boehner on CNBC's "Closing Bell with Maria Bartiromo" Today
WHEN: TODAY,THURSDAY, JUNE 20TH
WHERE: CNBC'S" CLOSING BELL WITH MARIA BARTIROMO" AT 4PM ET
Following is the unofficial transcript of a CNBC EXCLUSIVE interview with John Boehner, Speaker of the House of Representatives, on CNBC's "Closing Bell with Maria Bartiromo."All references must be sourced to CNBC.
MARIA BARTIROMO: Speaker Boehner, good to have you on the program. Thanks for joining us.
SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: Good to be with you.
MARIA BARTIROMO: We have a massive sell off going on Wall Street today, the market down sharply-- after the Fed's comments yesterday. People are worried about the economy. Are you worried?
SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: I am worried about the economy. We've had this anemic economic growth for four years now. And I think the president's policies are getting in the way of investors and entrepreneurs willing to invest in our economy. They're just sitting on their hands. I used to be a small businessman. And if I saw the storm clouds that they were seeing, I'd be waiting for the picture to clear as well.
You've got Obamacare that's got a lot of employers scared to death because they don't know what the rules are going to be. You got an EPA that continues to bring out more and more rules-- we're stifling-- economic growth in the country. We need to fix our tax code, we need to deal with our spending problem. And if people begin to understand that we're dealing with these issues, I think the picture clears, people more willing to invest.
MARIA BARTIROMO: When the market is down this much doesn't that also impact the wealth effect and sort of the sentiment out there and it's a vicious cycle that actually worsens things?
SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: Well,it certainly could because you know, people open their 401(k) statements you know, at the end of every quarter and for most people it's an indication of their wealth. And the value of their home would be another indication,how well homes are selling in their neighborhoods.
But sell off is in large part due to the policies that we've had coming' out of the Federal Reserve. You know, you can't continue to deflate our money and deflate it and deflate it-- have equity markets go-- without some change, yeah. Bernanke has made it clear he's doing these policies in the absence of the government doing its part to help improve our economy.
That's why Democrats and Republicans here on Capitol Hill and the president need to deal with-- fix our tax code that would help us promote more economic growth and deal with our long term spending problem. We've spent more money than what we've brought in for 55 of the last 60 years. That ought to scare the hell out of every American.
We need to deal with this problem openly and honestly. Because if we do, investors around the country, business owners are going to look up and go, "Gee, they're actually dealing with the issues that I'm most concerned about." Then they'll begin to invest.
MARIA BARTIROMO: But how likely is that over the next year? I mean, Bernanke made it clear yesterday that if the data continues as it is then they could be out of the bonds buying business by next year this time. So that's one year. Will we see fiscal policy in terms of tax reform, in terms of regulatory clarity? Will we see that in the next 12 months?
SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: Listen,hope springs eternal in my heart. And while we have big differences over what tax reform might look like, what entitlement reform might look like we have to -- we have to come together and deal with these things. Because if we want our economy to grow, we want to create jobs-- we've got to deal with the issues that are affecting it.
You know, Republicans-- we've got our jobs plan. We've had it now for literally the last three or four years. We've updated this effort and it's our number one focus here. And while, you know, we've got other obligations under the constitution that provides oversight of the Executive Branch we're trying to stay focused on those things that would improve our economy-- help the American people's wages increase and have more jobs available.
MARIA BARTIROMO: One of the things that you are telling the manufacturers-- here today-- is that one way to do that is energy. How do we tap into the rich asset that this country holds? Is it-- is there any likelihood that we actually see Keystone approved fracking developed?
SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: Well,as I told the National Association of Manufacturers earlier today, we've been a nation of builders. But our status as a nation of builders is beginning to slip. Why? Because of the lack of energy to some extent, big regulations getting in the way of it, an uncompetitive tax code. And I believed that with the energy renaissance going on in America, we can again become the nation of builders that we once were and create real high paying jobs for the American people.
When it comes to energy we need the Keystone Pipeline. You know, we've got nine 100 unit tank trains that leave North Dakota every day. And many of those go to the Gulf Coast. While they can do that safely, it'd be much more efficient if we built the Keystone Pipeline. All the president has to do is say yes. When it comes to the threat coming out of this administration that they want to regulate fracking the states do this and the states do a very good job. We don't need the federal government getting in the way.
But the federal government here has shut off-- almost all federal lands to more oil and gas development. All the expansion that we are seeing is all happening on private lands. We need the federal government to work with us to open up the Intermountain West, to open up the Outer Continental Shel fwhere there's tremendous resources. We've got more resources that's beginning to appear than almost any country on earth. Why wouldn't we develop those resources for the betterment of the American people?
MARIA BARTIROMO: Well, it seems to me that government is hurting small business right now. I want to ask you where your accountability is on this. In terms of the regulatory environment for example flat fees-- I mean, I speak to business people all the time. They're saying this is a tax from Dodd-Frank, this is a tax from the EPA that goes across the board in terms of business.
Of course a larger business with you know, higher revenue, higher profitability, higher market value is going to be able to handle those fees, those taxes a lot better than a smaller business. So are you effectively killing the big job creators of our country?
SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: Or just trying to comply with the regulations. You know, the big banks can-- big financial institutions can do that. But the small community banks, they can't hire four, five, six people just to try to understand what the regulations are. We've had continued oversight of Dodd-Frank implementation as an example. We've passed changes to Dodd-Frank here in the House, Senate's done nothing with them. This is having an-- many unintended consequences.
And even the administration will admit that there are parts of Dodd-Frank that are pretty unworkable. Secretary Geithner told me this three years ago. I'm still waiting for the suggestions on the changes that they want to make.
MARIA BARTIROMO: You know some people really want to see the two sides get together. When was the last time you spoke to the president?
SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: I spoke to the president-- last week or two.
MARIA BARTIROMO: How's your relationship? I mean--
SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: Well,I've got-- I've got a good relationship with the president. There's no--there's no issues there. The problem we have is that you know, we come from two different ideological spectrums. You know, I've got 11 brothers and sisters, my dad owned a bar, I owned my own small business as well. And I believe the government's too big, spends too much and nobody's holding it accountable.
The president, he's never been in the private sector, you know, he believes in bigger government. And so even though we believe in different things it's our job on behalf of the country to figure out where's the common ground. And so finding that common ground though has been difficult.
MARIA BARTIROMO: I got to tell you, Mr. Speaker, I speak to business people all the time. And yesterday the house, you know, passed a bill on abortion and the people that I speak to, they agree with you on economics, they are fiscally conservative but they are socially liberal. They believe in gay marriage, they believe in a woman's right to choose and they feel that you've let them down--
SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: Well--
MARIA BARTIROMO: The GOP has let them down.
SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: Well,listen. After the Kermit Gosnell trial in Philadelphia and some of the horrendous things that were going-- I think passing a bill to ban late term abortions was the appropriate thing to do. We can walk and chew gum here. Our number one focus continues to be on the economy-- and those things that are getting in the way of growing our economy and we're going to continue to do that.
MARIA BARTIROMO: How are you going to get those people back that feel that the GOP has let them down? What do you need to do to lead this party into the next century?
SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: What I tend to do is to work on things and talk about things that unite us as a party. And typically with the economics it'd be over the size and scope of government, rules, regulations, a tax code that nobody understands. Those are the things that unite us, those are the things that we must remain focused on.
MARIA BARTIROMO: What about the IRS? A lot of people are upset, this targeting of groups that they don't agree with, their politics. You said recently it's inconceivable the president did not know about the IRS targeting conservative groups. Do you still believe that with the evidence unfolding?
SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: No, I--how do your entire senior staff know about this for months and months and it's never mentioned to the president? It wouldn't happen in my operation,that's why I think it's inconceivable. We-- our job is to get to the truth. It's clear that this didn't start with a group of rogue agents in Cincinnati. It's pretty clear now, more evidence coming out that Washington did in fact know about it.
Senior Treasury officials have now admitted that they knew about this problem over a year ago. Why weren't we notified? Why wasn't corrective action taken? The president and the administration doing everything they can to block access to witnesses-- to shut down and not turn over documents. If they want to get this out of the way and clean this mess up they need to cooperate with the Congress to provide the documents and the witnesses so that we have a clear understanding of what happened and who's responsible.
MARIA BARTIROMO: But Lois Lerner took the fifth. Are we ever going to find out what happened?
SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: You know, in addition to the Congress looking at this there's also a criminal investigation going on by the Justice Department, the inspector general. While the information we got earlier came from an audit he didn't do a full investigation. So there's a complete investigation going on by the inspector general. I'll just say this. We are going to get to the bottom of this targeting and targeting based on people's political beliefs.
MARIA BARTIROMO: Let me ask you about the debt ceiling, more worry on Wall Street that we could see a government shutdown over this and another major fight on the horizon. White House officials that we've spoken to on background say that the president will not negotiate on the debt ceiling again, period, that any deal on replacing the sequester or further reducing the deficit needs to be separate from simply approving raising the debt ceiling.
SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: Well,you know, I could say the sun's not going to come up tomorrow, but guess what? It is. So the president can say, "I'm not going to negotiate on the debt limit." Get over it. We're spending more money than what we're bringing in. We have to deal with this problem. And if we're going to raise the debt limit then we've got to do something about what's causing us to spend more money than what we bring in. So guess what? We're going to have a debate and we're going to have a negotiation.
MARIA BARTIROMO: People are not stupid. We understand that these programs are going broke. Why is this so difficult to get done?
SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: Oh,listen. For 20 years before I became Speaker I saw both parties kick this can down the road, kick it down the road and kick it down the road. I made up my mind two and a half years ago when it appeared that I was going to become Speaker that I was not going to kick the can down the road. It was time to deal with the problem.
We've already gotten…in place that will reduce spending by about $2.5 trillion. Part of that's the sequester, part of it was bringing down the caps on discretionary spending. But two thirds of the budget, the mandatory spending side, has to be dealt with. We've got some long term big drivers of debt, most of it baby boomers like me retiring, 10,000 of us every day. It's driving a big hole in the budget. It must be dealt with.
MARIA BARTIROMO: Do you think we will see this be dealt with by the end of the year?
SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: I would certainly hope so.
MARIA BARTIROMO: What about growth? When do we start getting back to growth? Once you deal with the entitlements how do you get back to growth?
SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: Well,if we deal with entitlements that will help us on the spending side. But we can't cut our way to prosperity. We also need to fix a broken tax code that gets in the way of economic growth. And I would expect we would deal with both of these hopefully in the same context because we need to simplify the code, bring down the rates clean up the mess so that Americans understand what their obligations are without having to spend $500 billion a year to comply with this tax code.
MARIA BARTIROMO: And do you think that is going to help businesses that are sitting on all this cash here and abroad bring that money back to the U.S.?
SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: I --absolutely it will.
MARIA BARTIROMO: Ben Bernanke has talked about this. And of course this week the president all but said Ben Bernanke's out, hinted that Ben Bernanke has been in the job longer than he should be. Do you agree? Do you want to see Ben Bernanke reconfirmed or not?
SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: Well,that's the president's decision and I'll leave it to him.
MARIA BARTIROMO: Do you think Bernanke's done a good job?
SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: You know, he was dealt a pretty tough hand. I've sat through a lot of meetings with him '07, '08, '09 and helped us navigate through a very difficult crisis. But this quantitative easing, I've been concerned about. I think it's over the top and puts us in very dangerous territory. And I understand his concern's more about deflation than it is inflation but you can't continue to debase the currency long term, it's just not a healthy thing.
MARIA BARTIROMO: And he suggested that he would be out of QE if things go as planned over the next year. Is that appropriate to walk away at this point?
SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: Well,I-- again I've been concerned about this quantitative easing. You can't continue with virtually zero interest rates for a long time. It's--you're telling investors you only have one place to go, and that's to the equity market. It's-- we all knew this day was going to come when he was going to start to back up a little bit -- better now than later.
MARIA BARTIROMO: Which is really surprising that the market would react this way because we knew it was coming.
SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: Well,everybody knew it was coming. But you know, nobody knew when it was coming and they still don't know when it's coming.
MARIA BARTIROMO: Let me ask you about immigration. A lot of people hope that we can get something done there. You've said that you won't move a bill on immigration on the House floor without a majority of GOP support. Why?
SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: Well, I think big issues here in our country need to be done in a bipartisan bicameral basis. And what I said was that we need a majority of both parties to work together in a constructive way to deal with our broken legal immigration system and the problem with illegal immigration.
But nothing's really going to happen until we're able to secure our borders. It is the first step. Everybody recognizes if we don't have a secure border and a way to enforce our immigration laws none of this is going to work. I believe that we need to fix this system. We have a mess. We've kicked this football around now for 15-- political football around for 15 years.
It's time for the Congress to work our way through this. I don't-- I'm not suggesting that it's going to be easy. But what we don't want to do is to rush something through here with a minimum vote, you know, the way they did Obamacare. I just think if we're going to make big changes you got to have a majority of both parties in favor.
MARIA BARTIROMO: In terms of the Senate bill is that what the issue was, the border control?
SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: One of the issues in the Senate bill is their border security I don't think is up to speed. I don't think the triggers in their bill are sufficient to give people confidence that we are in fact going to secure the border.
MARIA BARTIROMO: We all know that there was a challenge to your speakership earlier this year after the tax hikes went through. Some in your party are predicting another challenge because of this immigration bill. Are you worried?
SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER:No. I fully expect to be Speaker. You know, as the Speaker I take a lot of hits, I get a lot of hatchets thrown at my back every day. Listen,it's-- it comes with the territory. And if you're going to lead here in Washington, you know, you're going to take some hits. But I've got a good relationship with our members, work closely with them. And I've made clear how we intend to proceed on immigration and I think people are comfortable with it.
MARIA BARTIROMO: And let me ask you about the NSA collection program. You've defended it. You called Edward Snowden a traitor. We learned this week that there was a plan to attack to New York Stock Exchange and it was stopped in its early stages. But people are still pointing out that this is too much information that the government is watching and listening to the American people, average citizens. Is it?
SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: The president pointed out that these programs help keep Americans safe. These programs also help us go after terrorists who want to harm Americans. I've been briefed in all these programs and I believe that there are substantial safeguards in place where ordinary Americans have no-- there's no threat-- that their emails are going to be reviewed or their contents of their phone calls are going to be reviewed. There's almost no chance of that happening.
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