“It is the President’s position that in pursuit of balanced deficit reduction that includes both entitlement reforms and revenues from tax reform, that the offer he made to Speaker Boehner remains on the table, and that if the Speaker of the House were to change his position and go back to the position he held just a few months ago, which is that tax reform could generate significant revenues towards deficit reduction — at the time, he claimed he could produce a trillion dollars in revenues in deficit reduction through tax reform — then we would be well on our way, potentially, to reaching a bipartisan agreement.”
—White House Press Secretary Jay Carney
The White House press secretary imagines a change of position by Speaker Boehner.
After Democrats and Republicans resolved the debt ceiling issue temporarily with the Budget Control Act of 2011, House Speaker John Boehner took the position that Republicans would reach budget-cutting goals by reducing spending.
After President Obama achieved re-election in November 2012, Speaker Boehner altered his position. He stated that in light of Mr. Obama’s election victory Republicans would reach the budget-cutting goals of the BCA with reduced spending and increased revenues. Boehner proposed reaching the compromise position by closing tax loopholes rather than by increasing tax rates.
In late December of 2012, with the sequestration cuts poised to take effect, Boehner compromised on taxes by agreeing to a rate increase on high income earners instead of closing tax loopholes. This “fiscal cliff” deal delayed sequestration until March 2013.
No subsequent deal was reached to meet the budget goals of the BCA or to further temporarily delay the sequester budget cuts. Sequestration went into effect on March 2, with Boehner refusing to compromise on closing tax loopholes on top of the “fiscal cliff” deal that allowed a tax increase:
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is signaling that at least one thing will change about his leadership during the 113th Congress: he’s telling Republicans he is done with private, one-on-one negotiations with President Obama.
Boehner vowed to pursue future negotiations through the regular legislative order, with the House and Senate passing their own versions of bills, forging a compromise through committee and sending the result on to the president.
Analyzing the Rhetoric
Speaker Boehner changed his position by compromising on higher tax rates instead of conceding higher revenues through a tax reform that eliminates tax loopholes and special tax breaks. We find no evidence at all that Boehner has changed his position that tax reform could raise additional revenue. We find, rather, that he refuses to compromise a second time with the president’s demand for higher revenues.
Jay Carney’s claim that Boehner has changed his position on the potential for higher tax revenues through tax reform has no logical basis. But his statement does not resemble some mere slip of the tongue. It comes, aside from the divorce from reality, in paragraph form with internal consistency.
What does his statement accomplish in terms of political rhetoric?
Boehner’s supposed inconsistency paints the Republican as an unreliable negotiator. Carney’s tale serves as a personal attack that may help sway public opinion against the Republican position.
Carney’s rhetoric also minimizes the president’s inflexible demand for a second compromise from Boehner. The White House version of events carries no storyline of Boehner compromising on additional revenue through the tax code. Carney omits mention of Boehner’s compromise on higher tax rates and, in effect, says Boehner reneged on his earlier compromise proposal.
The attack on Boehner serves as a red herring, distracting the audience from the White House’s inflexibility in the budget negotiations.
“if the Speaker of the House were to change his position and go back to the position he held just a few months ago, which is that tax reform could generate significant revenues towards deficit reduction”
Carney’s false allegation that Boehner changed his position on the potential for higher revenues through tax reform serves as a fallacious personal attack on Boehner. It also distracts from the administration’s inflexibly in demanding a second compromise on higher revenues.
Carney, Jay. “Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney, 3/11/2013.” The White House. The White House, 11 Mar. 2013. Web. 13 Mar. 2013.
Boehner, John. “Growing Private-Sector Jobs In America Can Only Be Done Without Tax Hikes.” John Boehner 8TH DISTRICT OF OHIO. U.S. House of Representatives, 10 July 2011. Web. 13 Mar. 2013.
“Boehner Column: Liberating Our Economy from the Shackles of Government.” John Boehner 8TH DISTRICT OF OHIO. U.S. House of Representatives, 16 Sept. 2012. Web. 13 Mar. 2013.
“Weekly Republican Address: Speaker Boehner on Helping Our Economy Grow, Create Jobs, and Avert the Fiscal Cliff.” John Boehner 8TH DISTRICT OF OHIO. U.S. House of Representatives, 9 Nov. 2012. Web. 13 Mar. 2013.
“Boehner Column: A Balanced Approach to Averting the Fiscal Cliff.” John Boehner 8TH DISTRICT OF OHIO. U.S. House of Representatives, 7 Dec. 2012. Web. 13 Mar. 2013.
Berman, Russell. “Boehner Tells GOP He’s through Negotiating One-on-one with Obama.” The Hill. News Communications, Inc., 2 Jan. 2013. Web. 13 Mar. 2013.