When: Today, Tuesday, May 8th at 4:30PM ET
Where: CNBC’s “Closing Bell with Maria Bartiromo”
Following is the unofficial transcript of a CNBC EXCLUSIVE interview with Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) today, Tuesday, May 8th, at 4:30PM ET on CNBC’s “Closing Bell with Maria Bartiromo.”
Additionally, following are links to video of the interview on CNBC.com: http://video.cnbc.com/gallery/?video=3000089079 and http://video.cnbc.com/gallery/?video=3000089080
All references must be sourced to CNBC.
MARIA BARTIROMO, host: Speaker Boehner, good to have you on the program.
Representative JOHN BOEHNER: Maria, good to be with you.
BARTIROMO: Thank you so much for joining us. Let me begin with the--with the debt. The country's $16 trillion in debt. What are you going to do? Will the House reduce the country's debt regardless of whether President Obama gets re-elected or Mitt Romney is in the White House next year?
Rep. BOEHNER: Well, it has to happen or the financial markets will do it for us in terms of downgrading our debt. And I actually think, regardless of what happens in the election, the next couple of years are going to be the most consequential couple of years that we've seen in Washington in the last 50 because we've got this debt issue that we're dealing with really acting like a wet blanket over our entire economy. We've got a budget deficit that is unsustainable. And we've got entitlement programs that are important tens of millions of Americans that aren't going to exist if we don't fix them.
BARTIROMO: So why has it become so difficult? The administration--you mean, you're operating without a budget now for three years, the administration. How come it's so difficult to get a budget passed?
Rep. BOEHNER: Well, the House has passed its budget each of the last three years. It's the Senate that's been unable to produce a budget. And without a budget from the Senate, there's no way to actually have an agreement on how to move forward. And while the president is out campaigning, Rome is burning to the ground. The president needs to get engaged in this process, also. Because if the president were involved in leading, we might actually have a budget out of the Senate, we might be able to come to an agreement on how to begin to address these big problems.
BARTIROMO: I'm going to come back to taxes and spending in a moment. But you mentioned Rome is burning, and it, in fact, is. Europe rejecting austerity, a new election in France, a Socialist president there, tell me how all of this impacts the United States, in your view.
Rep. BOEHNER: Well, I think it's pretty clear that the European economy is slowing. It's certainly going to affect our growth this year, and it's going to affect our growth in the future. But secondly, when you look at the problems that Europe has from a financial standpoint and their debt load, we're next. I mean, the picture's as clear as it can be. And I look back over the last year and a half, one of my greatest disappointments is that the president and I were unable to come to an agreement to take a significant chunk out of our long-term debt. It's--it is a real concern, and it's a real problem. But you can't address these problems from Congress alone. You need a president who will lead, and the president's not leading.
BARTIROMO: What is your plan if the euro starts to deteriorate further and then the eurozone along with it?
Rep. BOEHNER: Well, I don't know that the Congress has a plan other than we're not--we're not in for more stimulus bills and we're not in for more bailouts. I can tell you that, that US House of Representatives will not go there. And it's time for Europe to deal honestly with their problems, just like it's time for the United States to deal honestly with its problems. We can't cut our way to prosperity nor can we just simply grow our way out of this problem. We need to take real steps to control spending, and we need real economic growth. We have to have both if we're going to skirt our way through this problem.
BARTIROMO: Like what? What are the specific plans that you would like to see happen?
Rep. BOEHNER: First, on the economic growth side, I think our tax code gets in the way of our ability to grow. I think that we need to overhaul both the corporate tax code and the personal tax code. If you look at our budget, we'd like to see a top rate of 25 percent. And get rid of all the special loopholes in the underbrush in order to bring those rates down and simplify our tax code. At the same time, that will also broaden the tax code in terms of the number of Americans paying income taxes to our government. First big step. Second step, we've got to stop the regulatory nightmare coming out of the administration. Every agency downtown here in Washington is in full mode, whether it's the EPA, whether it's Dodd-Frank financial rules, Obamacare. You go down the list. These regulations are strangling our ability to grow our economy and strangling the ability of employers to hire more people. A third point, we've got to have real controls on spending. Today we've got 10,000 baby boomers retiring every single day. That's 70,000 people a week. That's three and a half million people a year. And this is just the beginning of the retirement for baby boomers. So, for the next 20 years, we've got a lot of people retiring. And it's not like there's money in the Social Security Trust Fund or the Medicare Trust Fund. It's all been spent. And the whipsaw effect we're going to have on our budget is going to be tremendous. These programs aren't sustainable in their current form. We need to make adjustments, and we need to have real controls on spending.
BARTIROMO: What about the skeptics who say now is not the time to cut back? You've got, what, 10,000 cops seeing job cuts. You've got social services, you know, on the block in terms of further cuts. What about people...
Rep. BOEHNER: Nobody's talking about undermining the safety net. No one. The safety net is there to protect Americans who can't help themselves. But when it comes to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, when it comes to federal employee pensions that are out of control, those are things that we have to address and we will address.
BARTIROMO: How do you address it? Do you extend the age of retirement? I mean, how do you get your arms around it?
Rep. BOEHNER: Well, there are a lot of options on how you extend the life of these programs. Frankly, I'd like to see them all sustainable for the next 75 years. Social Security, that's not really that hard to do. When it comes to Medicare and Medicaid, you know, the administration went down the path of Obamacare, which, in my view, will ruin the best health care delivery system the world's ever seen, and bankrupt our nation. I think that's the wrong path. So the Supreme Court's going to make some decision. We'll have to see what they decide. But it's time for us to have a conversation with the American people about how best to overhaul our health system. And that'll be a big focus in the campaign, I'm sure.
BARTIROMO: Can you scrap Obamacare without a viable plan for health care for the country? I mean, what is the alternative in terms of universal coverage that doesn't rely on gimmicks, that doesn't rely...
Rep. BOEHNER: Oh, I--listen, I think it's a step-by-step approach of fixing the problems in our current health care system. It's not about throwing it away and starting over, which is what Obamacare is, it's about a step-by-step approach to fixing the problems that we have in our current system. That can't be done without unduly raising the cost of health insurance for everyone else.
BARTIROMO: I'm going to ask you about the Bush tax cuts, which expire at the end of the year, of course. That means things like ordinary income, capital gains, dividend taxes. Dividend taxes are being taxed as ordinary income. People are now talking about dividend taxes going from 15 or 16 percent to 43 percent.
Rep. BOEHNER: Forty-three percent. That's what's going to happen in January, if we don't act. Now, the House is prepared to act. We've already passed 30 jobs bills out of the House that are sitting in the United States Senate. The House is going to act to extend the current tax rates. Whether we make them permanent or we extend them for a year, that debate's still up in the air. But we're going to do our work. It's time for the United States Senate to do their work. Otherwise, we're going to have this mess all stacked up until after the election. And you want to talk about a train wreck?
You're talking about a big one. What are we going to do with all the tax rates between Thanksgiving and Christmas? What are we going to do about funding the government for all of next year? What are we going to do about the debt limit we're probably going to be up against? Are we going to wait until the end of the year to do all this?
BARTIROMO: Is there a compromise that can be made where as some tax cuts expire and others don't? What are you talking about in terms of some kind of compromise on taxes?
Rep. BOEHNER: Listen, the House is prepared to extend all the current tax rates, all. The Senate has to act. And until the Senate acts, it's hard to determine how do we deal with this.
BARTIROMO: So what's your expectation? Where does this go at the end of year?
Rep. BOEHNER: I've been in Washington long enough to know that I shouldn't have high expectations.
BARTIROMO: Let me ask you about...
Rep. BOEHNER: Especially of the United States Senate.
BARTIROMO: Let me ask you about spending. Where is the most onerous spending, in your view? Where is the low-hanging fruit that should be cut? Specifics.
Rep. BOEHNER: Well, I think these Solyndra-type loan programs are irresponsible. You got hardworking Americans paying income taxes, they give it to the government, and our job is to spend it wisely. And when you look at Solyndra and other loan programs like this, it's become a giant waste of the American people's money. They work hard for this money. And then they watch Washington throw it away. You know, you've got all these GSA conferences going on. You can go down the whole list. It never stops.
BARTIROMO: At this point, I think the American people are comfortable in terms of the two different--the different ways each side wants to govern. Whether it's, you know, cutting taxes on one hand or cutting spending on the other, is there any reason to believe that we'll see any compromise before the election? Will anything get done legislatively before November?
Rep. BOEHNER: The House has done its work consistently over the last year and a half. All these bills are sitting in the United States Senate. The Congress can't function if one half of it doesn't do its job. All I can speak for is the House. We are going to do our work. We're going to extend these tax rates. We're going to take responsible actions and hope that the other body will move quickly.
BARTIROMO: In the last few weeks, it seems like the pace of economic recovery has slowed quite a bit. A lot of people talking about Europe, a lot of people talking about the price of oil. What's your take on where we are right now?
Rep. BOEHNER: Well, I think the economy is slowing, and I would not be at all surprised to see it continue. Why? Look at what's going on in Europe. It's having a very big impact on the United States. We've got record low interest rates, yet employers are scared, they're afraid to move forward. I used to be a small employer. If I saw conditions like this, I'd be hoarding case and sitting on my hands. And that's exactly what business people here in the United States are doing. We need to reduce the uncertainty. How do you do that? Deal with the tax code, deal with the debt, and stop the regulatory onslaught coming out of the administration.
BARTIROMO: So can you explain to the American people what the GOP would do, what's number one on the agency, if, in fact, you get the White House in--at the end of this year?
Rep. BOEHNER: I think dealing with the debt, dealing with our tax code are the two really big issues. You know, the president and I, when we had disagreements last summer, he would say, `Well, John, that's what elections are for.' And I would look at the president, and I'd say, `Yes, Mr. President, that's what elections are for.' You have big decisions that are going to be made in November, and the American people should not underestimate the two very different paths that are being proposed by the two presidential candidates.
BARTIROMO: So does this election rest on the independent? Does this election rest on women? What do you think? How do you think this links up?
Rep. BOEHNER: Well, when you look at all the data, I think the fact that Romney is basically tied with the president at this point, after being kicked around by his opponents for a year, I think it's pretty remarkable. Secondly, you have to remember that 90 percent of the undecideds will go with the challenger. But look at this through another lens in the prism, you got 47 percent of the American people who are going to vote for Mr. Romney, and you got 47 percent probably today who are going not vote for President Obama. It's that 6 percent that are going to make the decision. Remember this, this election's going to be a referendum on the president's economic policies. They've failed. They've actually made the economy worse. He's going to try to make the election about everything other than his failed economic policies. What Republicans need to do is to keep focused on the issues that Americans most care about and answer the question, where are the jobs?
BARTIROMO: And yet, you've got people like George Soros giving $2 million to super PACs. When you've got a deep-pocketed guy like that, does this concern you?
Rep. BOEHNER: Of course it does. You know, the campaign system, frankly, is out of control. The amount of money that's flowing into these races are numbers that are beyond anybody's imagination. But the American people, they're pretty smart. They figure these things out pretty, well and it's going to be about the economy. The president can't run on it, and I'm frankly pretty pleased at the position Mr. Romney's in, at this point. And frankly, I think he's got a lot of room to grow.
BARTIROMO: And you said a moment ago that you're doing your work, the House is doing its work. What are you priorities? What do you get passed by the end of this year?
Rep. BOEHNER: Clearly, something to replace the sequester. We're going to move a bill this week with over $300 billion in reductions over the next 10 years in order to replace the sequester that's supposed to go into effect in January. We're going to extend all the current tax rates for at least another year, if not permanently. Those are the really big important things that need to be done.
BARTIROMO: Mr. Speaker, would you like to add anything else that I may have missed?
Rep. BOEHNER: No.
BARTIROMO: Well, in the past, I know that some journalists have triggered you to cry. You haven't done that in awhile.
Rep. BOEHNER: No, no, no, no.
BARTIROMO: Are you trying to change that image?
Rep. BOEHNER: Oh, no, no. Listen, I've met every crier in America because they come over to me, and they put their arm around me and say, `Hey, I like you. I cry, too.'
BARTIROMO: Mr. Speaker, good to have you on the program.
Rep. BOEHNER: Great to see you.
BARTIROMO: Thank you so much. Good to see you.
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