One-on-One with John Boehner: Is a Corporate Tax Cut in the Cards?

U.S. Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner
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U.S. Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner

Here's the transcript from my interview last night with Republican House Speaker John Boehner.

We covered a wide range of topics including the tragedy in Japan, U.S. energy policy, the budget battle and taxes.

On that final topic, according to Speaker Boehner, a corporate tax cut is still possible this year.

LARRY KUDLOW: Speaker Boehner, welcome back to the Kudlow Report.

JOHN BOEHNER: Good to be with you.

LARRY KUDLOW: Thank you. Let me begin, of course, with the catastrophe going on in Japan-- and ask you first, are there thoughts, policies, discussions in Congress? What can we do to help our Japanese friends?

JOHN BOEHNER: Well, clearly our hearts and souls go out to the people of Japan, and the tragedy that they have faced and are facing. Whether it's military help, or whether it's our expertise-- food supplies-- a lot that we will be doing-- to help the Japanese people.

LARRY KUDLOW: Will the Congress appropriate additional funds for these kinds of emergency assistance?

JOHN BOEHNER: I think that's yet to be seen. But I would not be surprised.

LARRY KUDLOW: And, do you think these food supplies and military assistance is gonna start right away? Is it in motion as we speak?

JOHN BOEHNER: I think it's been in motion all weekend, and will continue.

LARRY KUDLOW: Let me ask you also, of course related to this, is the whole issue of-- the threatened nuclear meltdown in Japan. Is that gonna effect American energy policy? Are you gonna hold additional hearings on this?

JOHN BOEHNER: Well, Chairman Upton at the Energy and Commerce Committee already has a hearing scheduled for this week with the head of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. And, I'm sure the question will come up about those types of plants-- what kind of experience we have here. But, it's clear that there are lessons to be learned from what's happening in Japan as we speak. And, I think that we need to learn those lessons as we continue to look at how do we produce more energy from nuclear sources here in America.

LARRY KUDLOW: You were home this weekend and Ohio has some nuclear power plants. Did local folks, did voters, were they talking about this? Were they worried about their own nuclear plants?

JOHN BOEHNER: No, I didn't hear any concerns raised. But as you watch these images on TV, you can't help but be concerned about what caused this. The design of these plants, as I understand, is about, they're about 40 years old. And, what improvements have been made over the course of the last 40 years and, what's the risk that we face if we continue to push more nuclear energy here in the United States. I think that's the question the American people wanna know.

LARRY KUDLOW: And-- I'm sure you're right. Is it, are people saying, "This is the end of nuclear energy policy"? I mean, is it gonna be cut and dry? Or, are they gonna give this an honest look?

JOHN BOEHNER: Listen, I think we need we need to take a step back, understand what happened, understand what changes have been made, and really understand what are the risks here. As we all know Japan sits in volcanic area-- prone to earthquakes. You know, they have some 1,500 earthquakes a year.

We've got parts of the United States that have some inclination toward earthquakes. But, we have other parts of the country where there's no threat. But, we need to learn those lessons. But, I don't think it should deter us from trying to do everything we can to move America toward energy independence.

LARRY KUDLOW: Let's turn back to the budget. On Friday, you unveiled a new continuing resolution, I guess to stop a shutdown this Friday. You got another $6 billion of budget cuts in there towards your $61 billion target. Can this one get through?

JOHN BOEHNER: I believe that the continuing resolution this week will pass for another three weeks, keeping the government open. And yet, though, cutting some $6 billion, which means that over the last several weeks, we'll be able to accumulate $10 billion worth of real savings.

All of this because the democrats did no budget last year. They did no appropriation bills, and dumped this mess in our lap. I want the continuing resolution through September 30th finished as soon as possible. But, that's gonna mean real cuts. It's gonna mean real limitations on what this administration can do for the balance of this fiscal year. And, I'm hopeful that we'll get it finished as soon as possible.

LARRY KUDLOW: I mean, you've got a lotta pressures, as we know. You've got tea party conservatives on one side. You've got people that want policy defunding of Obamacare on the other side. Democrats are way apart. I mean, it's almost a $50 billion gap. You told me a little while ago if the democrats won't take the whole loaf of budget cuts, you're gonna give it to 'em one slice at a time. Do you think you can get most of the original $61 billion in cuts?

JOHN BOEHNER: Well, I think we'll see. We're in discussions with the democrats in the Senate, with the administration. We want to cut spending because cutting spending will lead to a better environment for businesses to help create jobs in America. That's the core of what we're trying to do, bring some fiscal sanity to Washington DC.

LARRY KUDLOW: And, you've also been talking about next year's budget, if you get to it, for 2012. And, you want to put some entitlement reforms in there. You wanna put some entitlement limits and caps. How specific will you be? What kind of size reduction in spending might that come to?

JOHN BOEHNER: We've got serious fiscal challenges facing our country. And, it's time that we, as Americans have an adult conversation with each other about the serious challenges that face our country. No more kicking the can down the road. I've watched it go on for all the years that I've been here. So, you will see us bend the curve. You will see us lay out a plan that will not only balance the budget, but pay off the debt.

It's gonna take a long time to do this. But, it's time to make decisions. And, the unfortunate part of this is that the President a year ago set up a Deficit Reduction Commission. They did a lot of very good work. And, they worked very hard. And, I don't agree with everything they did.

But, when the President submitted his budget about a month ago, not one idea from his own Deficit Reduction Commission. That's just kickin' the can down the road. It's whistling past the graveyard. And, House republicans, along with our colleagues in the Senate are not going to do that. If he won't lead, we will.

LARRY KUDLOW: How do you react to criticism from democrats? Let's see, Senator Reed, Senator Durbin, Senator Schumer, they say republican spending cuts are bad for economic growth, bad for jobs. How do you react to that and, has the Republican Party focused too much on spending austerity, and not enough on economic growth?

JOHN BOEHNER: I gave the President a letter signed by 150 economists over a month ago that said that cutting federal spending will lead to a better environment for job creation in America. Businesses and, I used to be a small business man understand that you can't continue to borrow 40 cents for every dollar the federal government spends.

And, if we begin to cut spending, and people understand that we're serious about putting America on a sound fiscal footing it will send the signal to business people and investors that America is a place they can invest in. It's that investment that creates jobs.

LARRY KUDLOW: What about pro-growth tax reform, particularly business tax cuts? What about pro-growth regulatory moratorium? There's been a lotta talk about over-regulation of energy, for example. We got, what, $3.50 at the gallon. Many economists believe that's gonna raise the inflation rate and lower the economic growth rate. So, tax cute-- an-- and regulatory freezes, where's the GOP on that?

JOHN BOEHNER: Well, when you look at what it's gonna take to create jobs in America, we talked about cutting spending. We also need to look at all of this regulation coming out of this administration. And, whether it's Obamacare, whether it's the Dodd-Frank financial services bill, the EPA that's choking our ability to produce more American energy, we need to look at the regulatory side as well.

But, how about the three free trade bills that are sitting downtown the administration's holding Panama, Colombia, South Korea? Free trade will create more jobs here in the United States. And, we need to produce energy. We need to produce energy because we need to bring energy prices down.

But, let's not forget that if we begin to do all of the above on the energy side we because it'll create up up to a million new jobs here in America. So, we need to do all of these things, if we're going to create a better environment for our economy to get up and get moving and get Americans back to work.

LARRY KUDLOW: You know, President Obama and especially Vice President Biden-- Mr. Biden was over in Russia recently, talking about admitting Russia into the World Trade Organization, which would require a congressional vote. Wouldn't it be better to get these free trade deals passed before we put Russia into the World Trade Organization?

JOHN BOEHNER: Well, these free trade bills, some of them have been out there for three or four years. I believe that-- and then, the South Korea trade agreement. Let's deal with these. And if Russians want to actually agree to play by the rules then we can have a discussion about whether ascension into the WTO is the right step.

LARRY KUDLOW: Let me ask one last one. Do you believe that President Obama has turned pro-business? I get this question all the time. He had a charm offensive, he spoke to the Chamber of Commerce, and particularly his new Chief of Staff, Bill Daley. Have you spoken to Mr. Daley? Have you heard from him that they want a pro-business, pro-growth agenda? How do you come out on all that? Have any changes really been made in the last couple months in the White House?

JOHN BOEHNER: Well, I've talked to the President a lot over the last couple of months. And, I've talked to Mr. Daley a number of times. Talk is cheap. Actions speak louder than words. I haven't seen any new actions yet.

LARRY KUDLOW: What are you looking for? What would be a hint?

JOHN BOEHNER: Well, send the three free trade agreements to Congress for our consideration. Let's put a real moratorium on new regulations coming out of his administration, which he's also called for.

LARRY KUDLOW: How about Mr. Camp, your Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee? He runs tax policy, I know he runs trade policy too. Have you deputized him to come with a business tax cut reform bill?

JOHN BOEHNER: If we want to make America more competitive, we've got to reform our corporate tax code. It is in the way of job creation in America. Dave Camp is a great Chairman. We came to Congress together 21 years ago. He is working on that reform. There's a number of hearings that are already set up. The administration appears to have some interest in wanting to pursue this. And, I'm optimistic.

LARRY KUDLOW: Could this happen in my lifetime?

JOHN BOEHNER: It could happen this year.


JOHN BOEHNER: I hope that much was in your lifetime.

LARRY KUDLOW: I have high expectations. You think it could, you think you could get business tax reform this year, that's possible?

JOHN BOEHNER: I do. I actually do.

LARRY KUDLOW: All right. Speaker John Boehner, we appreciate your time very much, sir.

JOHN BOEHNER: Nice to see you.


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