Boehner not optimistic deal will be reached to avoid budget cuts

Published: Monday, February 11, 2013 @ 9:30 AM
Updated: Monday, February 11, 2013 @ 9:30 AM

Watch our exclusive interview

Watch our one-on-one interview with Speaker John Boehner online. We talked with him about several issues including the possibility of defense cuts that will impact Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and today’s State of the Union address by President Obama. Video is at

House Speaker John Boehner is not optimistic Congress and the president will reach a deal to avert massive federal budget reductions as thousands of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base workers face potential furloughs if automatic spending cuts start March 1.

“I’m not the most optimistic guy when it comes to whether this will go into effect,” said Boehner, R-West Chester Twp. “But there’s no reason for this (sequester) to happen.”

Boehner toured Cincinnati State Technical and Community College in downtown Middletown on Monday, one day before President Barack Obama lays out his agenda for the beginning of his second term in a State of the Union address to Congress. You can watch the State of the Union live on WHIO-TV Channel 7 starting at 9 p.m. Also, you can listen live at NewstalkRadio WHIO 95.7 FM and AM 1290 and it will stream online live at Our political team will also have live updates on Twitter at @Ohio_Politics.

On Monday, the speaker met behind closed doors with business and economic leaders, toured classrooms and spoke to students on a return visit to his home 8th District, which includes Butler, Clark, Preble, Miami, Darke and part of Mercer counties.

Democrats and Republicans have blamed the each other for the inability to reach common ground to avert sequestration. Automatic spending cuts of more than $1 trillion over a decade to both defense and domestic spending programs would begin without a deal. Lawmakers postponed the reductions for two months Jan. 1 in a deal that raised taxes on the wealthy. Spending cuts could mean everything from a sharp decline in military readiness to fewer air traffic controllers and food inspectors on the job to thousands of fewer students enrolled in Headstart, an education program for pre-schoolers.

The talks in Washington are of high importance to the Miami Valley because up to 13,000 civilian workers at Wright-Patterson may face 22-day furloughs without a budget agreement in hand. Many other local workers including defense contractors will also be impacted.

“While it’s a little grim here in the short term if we’re able to come to some agreement, it’ll allow the Department of Defense to have a much clearer picture of what their funding levels are going to be over the long term,” Boehner said in an exclusive interview.

The key to averting the automatic cuts is for the president and Senate Democrats to offer an alternative after the Republican-controlled House twice passed sequestration replacement bills last year, Boehner said. Democrats have criticized the Republican proposal for favoring defense spending while cutting deeply into social support programs.

The speaker suggested the president provide a plan to cut $1.2 trillion worth of cuts from other mandatory spending programs to avoid sequestration.

“I don’t like the sequester, I don’t think anybody does,” Boehner said. “But we’ve got a serious spending problem and it’s time for us to deal with it honestly. …

“I’ve watched leaders for 22 years kick this can down the road, avoid these big decisions,” he said. “Now is the time to make the decision. The president last week was talking about moving the sequester out a couple of more months. Yeah, then what?”

White House spokesman Keith Maley deferred questions to a blog post Obama administration senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer posted Sunday.

Pfeiffer wrote assertions Obama hasn’t offered a solution is false. In 2011, the president proposed $4 trillion in deficit reduction over a decade with a combination of cutting spending, entitlement programs and asking the wealthy “to pay their fair share” to avoid the automatic cuts. Obama offered a plan to cut spending and raise revenues last month that remains on the table, Pfeiffer wrote.

“The president has already reduced the deficit by over $2.5 trillion, cutting spending by over $1.4 trillion. And he’s willing to do more,” Pfeiffer wrote. “And we just can’t cut our way to prosperity. …

“But we are not willing to accept the ‘my way or the highway’ approach by congressional Republicans that asks the middle class and seniors to bear all the burden while the very wealthiest individuals, big corporations and oil and gas companies continue to enjoy big tax loopholes that are unavailable to middle class Americans and small business,” he wrote.

Boehner, who will sit behind the president as he delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress tonight, said he expected the president to talk “an awful lot” about the economy.

“My expectations are pretty low,” Boehner said. “After I listened to the inaugural address, I suspect tomorrow is rather going to be a partisan speech.

“I would hope he would lay out a pathway for us to avoid the sequester,” he added. “What are the changes and reforms that he’d put in place so that we don’t have to put the American people through what’s going to be a pretty painful period.”

Boehner attributed the budget impasse to national and political gridlock.

“We’ve got a divided country, we’ve got a divided government,” he said. “You can blame a lot of different people. It’s not about blaming people it’s about, at this point, finding enough common ground to solve this problem.”

Trump tells senators in meeting over tax bill: “We’ll fix it”

Published: Wednesday, October 18, 2017 @ 4:58 PM
Updated: Wednesday, October 18, 2017 @ 4:58 PM

            Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said after his first meeting with Donald Trump in the White House that the president vowed to push for a bipartisan tax bill that cuts taxes for the middle class.
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said after his first meeting with Donald Trump in the White House that the president vowed to push for a bipartisan tax bill that cuts taxes for the middle class.

Ohio’s two senators felt cautiously optimistic about Congress’ chances of passing comprehensive tax reform Wednesday after a morning meeting at the White House with Republicans and Democrats from the Senate Finance Committee.

The group, which included Sens. Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman of Ohio, huddled with President Donald Trump to push their respective priorities for tax reform.

RELATED: Trump proposes most sweeping tax overhaul in 30 years

Speaking briefly at the beginning of the meeting, Trump said the current proposal would increase the child tax credit, end the estate tax and cut the business tax rate to no more than 20 percent.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, in my opinion,” said Trump, adding that “the timing is right.”

Brown, a Democrat who has found common ground with Trump on some trade and U.S. manufacturing issues, used the meeting to push for the increase of the child tax credit — something Trump’s daughter Ivanka has advocated — as well as expanding and increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit.

He also pushed to advance a proposal he’s authored to reward companies that keep jobs in the United States.

RELATED: Portman meets with business leaders about tax reform

Afterward, Brown said it was the first time he’s been to visit Trump at the White House.

He was encouraged by the conversation. Trump, Brown said, “says this is about a middle class tax break that doesn’t give the richest one percent a tax break.”

However, he said he’s concerned that the framework released by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., would benefit the very rich. He said he’s hopeful that Trump will stick with the principles outlined in the meeting.

“I think he could make a deal with the Democrats and there would still be a bill he’d be happy with,” said Brown, adding that the president used the words “bipartisan” and “middle class” several dozen times during the meeting.

“He kept saying that’s what he wants to do,” Brown said. “And we kept pointing out that the bill doesn’t exactly do that, and he said, ‘we’ll fix it.’”

Portman, meanwhile, called the meeting “productive.”

Both parties, he said, “agreed tax reform should focus on helping middle-class families, and that’s what our plan does.”

“Our tax reform framework will help create more jobs, increase wages, and encourage more investment and opportunities in America,” Portman said after the meeting. “I remain optimistic that, by working together, we can simplify and reform our outdated tax code on behalf of middle-class families and small businesses.”

Portman on controversial DEA bill: ‘It slipped through’

Published: Wednesday, October 18, 2017 @ 4:30 PM
Updated: Wednesday, October 18, 2017 @ 4:15 PM

            Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio.
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio.

Sen. Rob Portman Wednesday said he was unaware of the details of a 2016 bill that effectively quashed the Drug Enforcement Administration’s ability to stop distributors from sending prescription drugs to doctors’ offices and pharmacies that fed the opioid epidemic.

The law passed by unanimous consent — a voice vote, with no members of the House or Senate opposing it. While members of the DEA and Justice Department told Washington Post and 60 Minutes reporters that they opposed the legislation, no one in Portman’s office was aware of the agencies’ concerns, he told a Washington Post panel convened Wednesday to discuss the epidemic.

“I frankly asked my office, ‘Did we hear from anybody?’ and the answer was no,” the Ohio Republican said.

RELATED: Congress investigating local drug distributor

Portman said the bill went through Congress at the same time his own drug treatment bill — the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act — went through Congress, and much of the focus was on that bill. The DEA bill, he said, “sort of slipped through.”

Speaking with Sens. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., and Joe Manchin, D-W.V., Portman said he and other senators plan to review the law, which effectively made it far tougher for the DEA to crack down on those pouring pain pills into communities. Portman has focused heavily on drug addiction issues dating back to his time in the House of Representatives, and during his 2016 re-election campaign for the Senate he ran ads highlighting his work fighting the opioid epidemic.

RELATED: Former drug czar nominee defends roll in opioid law

The Post story is largely credited with causing Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa., to withdraw his name from nomination to be the nation’s next drug czar. Marino was a leading cosponsor of the 2016 bill, as was Rep. Marsha Blackburn, a Tennessee Republican who is now running for governor.

Portman wasn’t the only one who said he was unaware of the implications of the bill Wednesday. Manchin said his staff was “not intricately involved” and was told it was aimed at ensuring that cancer patients and the terminally ill had access to pain relief — not that it could make it harder for the DEA to crack down on those purposefully dealing pills.

RELATED: Portman wants opioid money added to health care bill

“We never intended it to be a wholesale market to open up the floodgates,” he said. “Because in West Virginia, the floodgates were already open.”

Manchin has cosponsored a bill aimed at repealing the 2016 law. “No one intended for this to happen,” he said.

Trump leaves both parties confused on Senate health care deal

Published: Wednesday, October 18, 2017 @ 12:49 PM

A day after seemingly endorsing a legislative effort in Congress to formally approve money for insurance companies that would pay for health insurance subsidies for certain consumers, President Donald Trump indicated on Wednesday that while he backed the idea of bipartisan negotiations related to the Obama health law, he did not support a deal on “Cost Sharing Reduction” payments, .

“If something can happen that’s fine,” Mr. Trump told reporters at a White House photo op, as he made clear that he wants to stop insurance subsidy payments that go to health insurers.

“I won’t do anything to enrich the insurance companies,” the President said. “They’ve been enriched by Obamacare like nothing anyone has ever seen before.”

The statements left lawmakers on Capitol Hill wondering whether Mr. Trump would help push the plan through the Congress, or if it would galvanize more conservative opponents, as in less than 24 hours, the President had gone from supportive, to mildly unimpressed, to seemingly opposed to the plan.

“He called Murray-Alexander deal a very good solution,” said Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer. “Now this morning, he says he can’t support it.”
“He keeps zigging and zagging,” Schumer complained in a frustrated, and almost exasperated tone on the floor of the Senate, as he urged the President to be consistent when it comes to legislation in Congress.

“Our only hope is, maybe tomorrow, he’ll be for this again,” Schumer added.

As the President pinballed back and forth on the Senate CSR payments deal, it wasn’t clear what the Congress might do on the matter, as conservative groups urged GOP leaders not to accept the plan, saying it only tweaks the Obama health law, and not in a good way.

“This is a bailout for health insurance companies,” the group Freedom Works said in a morning news release.

Health insurance experts were still debating the Senate plan, unsure of all of its impacts, especially since there was no final bill draft at this point – and no plan for any vote on it, either.

Trump presses tax reform as Senate begins debate on GOP budget outline

Published: Wednesday, October 18, 2017 @ 2:08 AM

President Donald Trump urged conservative activists on Tuesday night to help lobby Senators in favor of a GOP tax reform package, as despite some infighting, Republicans seemed like they would be able to approve a budget outline this week in the Senate, a plan which would allow for future legislative action on a tax bill – without the threat of a Senate filibuster.

“Let’s give our country the best Christmas present of all – massive tax relief,” the President said in a speech at the Heritage Foundation, where his vow of big tax cuts drew large cheers from the audience.

“This is our once-in-a-generation opportunity to revive our economy,” Mr. Trump added, though he acknowledged that he doesn’t expect much support from Democrats in the Congress.

Before any tax bill can be brought up on the floor of the House and Senate, both chambers must approve a budget outline for 2018, which authorizes the use of the ‘budget reconciliation’ process for tax reform – helping the GOP to avoid a Senate filibuster. That was the same legislative tool used in a failed bid to overhaul the Obama health law.

In an important sign for the White House, Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) – who had been absent for weeks with an illness, returned to Capitol Hill on Tuesday – and then, GOP leaders won the support of another key Republican Senator, who has tangled repeatedly with the President.

“I support the Senate budget resolution because it provides a path forward on tax reform,” said Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who still wants GOP leaders to add more money to the budget outline for military needs.

Still not ready to commit to the budget or tax plans was Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who lobbed a series of pointed jabs at both McCain, and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), accusing them of trying to use budget gimmicks to funnel more money to the Pentagon, instead of finding ways to restrain spending.

In a first test vote, the Senate voted 50-47 in favor of beginning debate on the budget framework for 2018, which would balance the budget by 2026. A House budget outline would achieve that a year later.

No Democrats joined with Republicans to begin the Senate debate, as right now, the White House faces a difficult task in getting any Democratic lawmakers to endorse the President’s budget or tax plans.

“It’s going to be hard to get the Democrats, because they’re obstructionists, and they vote in blocks,” the President said in his Tuesday night speech.

If no Democrats cross party lines on taxes, that makes it all the more important for the GOP to stick together in the Senate, or the GOP could face the same outcome as on health care reform.

No legislative language for a tax reform plan has been released as yet by the GOP. Lawmakers don’t expect to see all the details until next month.