Speaker tells Brian Williams law is nation’s “biggest job killer,” reiterates GOP will do “everything we can” to reverse legislation.
Interview aired Thursday night on NBC Nightly News.
BOEHNER SPEAKS CANDIDLY ABOUT HIS EMOTIONS, HIS GOALS FOR REPEALING “OBAMACARE” AND HIS SMOKING HABIT
Interview airs on “NBC Nightly News”—Thursday, January 6th at 6:30 PM/ET
New York, NY— January 6, 2011— Representative John Boehner sat down today with NBC News’ Brian Williams for his first interview as Speaker of the House. Below are excerpts from the exclusive interview. If used, mandatory credit: “NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams.”
Additional portions of the interview will air tonight on “NBC Nightly News” at 6:30 PM/ET. The transcript and an extended interview will be available on nightly.msnbc.com. Photos will be available on http://www.nbcumv.com. Bob Epstein is the executive producer of “NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams.” Aurelia Grayson and Jamie Kraft are the senior broadcast producers. Subrata De is a senior producer of “NBC Nightly News,” overseeing the interview.
RE: Boehner an “emotional guy”
BRIAN WILLIAMS: You’re an emotional guy. A lot of us are. And you know this before I even mention it, it’s been the main topic of conversation. Where John Boehner’s name has been used you can flip from evening comedy show to comedy show, channel to channel. And it’s the one topic. And that is, your emotions. Do you, do you understand why it’s so much a topic of discussion? And do you worry at all about it being a distraction, especially during times of high moment?
JOHN BOEHNER: No. Listen, it’s who I am. You know, there are some things I feel very strongly about. And you probably heard that I don’t take myself very seriously. But I take what I do very seriously. And when it comes to kids. When it comes to my own family. Soldiers. You know, I get, I feel very strongly that I want America to be the country that I grew up in. A country where you really do have opportunity. But the American people know that the bigger the government gets, the smaller the people get.
That the more the government takes from us, the less we have to invest in ourselves, our families, our businesses, our communities. And I didn’t come here because I wanted to be a congressman. I came here because I was concerned about the direction of our country. And, and that’s what continues to drive me. And it’s the one reason I wanted to be Speaker. To have a bigger thumbprint on where this government’s going. Because it’s opportunities that Americans want. And it’s opportunities that I want to give ‘em.
BRIAN WILLIAMS: What do you do for strength?
JOHN BOEHNER: I pray. I pray from the moment I wake up, I may pray all day long. Because it’s, you can’t do this by yourself. Can’t do it.
BRIAN WILLIAMS: When you go home next, is there a sidewalk, a place, a person that’s kind of a talisman to grab onto? Again, talkin’ about strength and the new job?
JOHN BOEHNER: Well, I get strength every day just uh, going to my Facebook site. You know, people having conversations with people. It doesn’t make a difference anymore if I what airport I go to or what restaurant. You talk to Americans. And you learn from them. And I’m humbled by the confidence that they have in me.
BRIAN WILLIAMS: So, back to–
JOHN BOEHNER: That provides strength.
BRIAN WILLIAMS: Back to where we started the conversation. The kid who’s 16 in Ohio writes you on Facebook, “Mr. Speaker, how do I do what you just did? Who’s gonna give me the shot? Who’s gonna give me the chance?” This has been called the first American generation without the hope that life’s gonna be better for them.
JOHN BOEHNER: Right.
BRIAN WILLIAMS: So, answer that.
JOHN BOEHNER: Get a decent education. Work hard. And most importantly, dream big. You know, we, we are the biggest inhibitors to ourselves. We have blinders like this. I’ve spent my whole life trying to push the blinders back. Trying to push the blinders back, because there’s a big world out there. And there’s, you can do whatever you want to do. I played football for Gerry Faust. Moeller High School, Cincinnati. Went on to coach at Notre Dame. One of my dear friends. Left me a voicemail yesterday. But I’ve told the story for 20 years what he taught us. “There’s nothing in this world that you can’t accomplish. Nothing that you can’t succeed at. If you’re willing to work hard enough. And if you’re willing to make the sacrifices that are necessary.”
BRIAN WILLIAMS: Have you talked to him since you’ve been Speaker?
JOHN BOEHNER: No, but I’m–
BRIAN WILLIAMS: What are you gonna say to him when you do call him?
JOHN BOEHNER: “Thanks, Coach.”
RE: Repealing “Obamacare”
BRIAN WILLIAMS: Your speech yesterday seemed personal. I noted a lot of conciliatory language in it. But there was that expression “scar tissue.” You said there’s been a lot of scar tissue built up. Elaborate. What did you mean?
JOHN BOEHNER: Partisanship. Inability of members to work across the aisle. The, the heated rhetoric from each side of the aisle. All of that, in my description, is the scar tissue that’s built up over the last 15 or 20 years. And I think that by having a more open process, a more open house, that allows members of both parties to participate in the debate. Offer amendments. I think over time that will begin to melt the scar tissue that’s built up between the two parties.
BRIAN WILLIAMS: And yet, respectfully, the first thing you’re doing after the reading of the Constitution is bringing so called “Obamacare,” the Obama health plan up for a vote. It’s been called a stunt. Because it can pass the Republican House, but it’s certain to fail, if not in the Democratic Senate, it won’t survive a veto. Why spend the valuable time of your beloved House of Representatives that way?
JOHN BOEHNER: You have to understand that in my opinion Obamacare is the biggest job killer we have in America today. It’s a weight over every employer that we have. Thereby requiring them to hold back their willingness to hire people. Secondly, I believe that Obamacare will ruin the best health care delivery system in the world. And then thirdly, I think it’ll bankrupt our country. On September 24th, when we rolled out our Pledge to America, we made clear that we wanted to repeal Obamacare. We are going to do what we said we were going to do.
And I can’t predict what’ll happen in the Senate. I can’t predict what the President will do. But if you believe as I do the job-killing aspects of this, what it’ll do to our health care system and what it’ll do to the financials of our country. I think we have to do everything we can to make sure that this never ever gets fulfilled.
BRIAN WILLIAMS: Two points. What do you say to those who would disagree that it was the best health care delivery system in the world? Because they, by the millions, weren’t getting it? And second, where are you getting the notion, as you said again this morning, the American people want it repealed? Our exit polling was about 48-47. Very evenly split on that.
JOHN BOEHNER: I’ve talked to tens of thousands of people, all across the country last year, as I was out helping my candidates. I’ve been from one corner of my district to the other. And it’s pretty clear to me that this law ought to be repealed. The job-killing aspects, the cost of it, and what it’s gonna do to the delivery. And while, yes, not every American had fair access to affordable health insurance, every American had access to the best health care delivery system in the world.
RE: Boehner’s smoking habit
BRIAN WILLIAMS: Personal question. You’re a smoker. And not just a smoker, you’re a pretty committed smoker. I’ve got one in my own family. We all know ‘em. Do you think it’s fair game as a topic given smoking’s prominence in the health care debate? Or do you think it should be nobody’s business and a matter of personal privilege for you?
JOHN BOEHNER: Well, it just is what it is. That’s my take on it. You know, it’s a bad habit. I wish I didn’t have it. But I have it.
BRIAN WILLIAMS: You tried to quit?
JOHN BOEHNER: I’ve tried to quit– from time to time. But not for a while.
BRIAN WILLIAMS: Most smokers have tried to quit about 20 times.
JOHN BOEHNER: Nowhere close.
BRIAN WILLIAMS: Do you get a lot of heat for it?
JOHN BOEHNER: I have a lot of people offering advice to me. Suggestions. Self help.
BRIAN WILLIAMS: Nothin’. Okay.
JOHN BOEHNER: I appreciate their concern and you never know. Somebody someday might have the right, the right suggestion that–
BRIAN WILLIAMS: But for now it’s a part of your life and–
JOHN BOEHNER: Well, that’s what I do.
BRIAN WILLIAMS: It’s what you do. And you’re willing to take the–
JOHN BOEHNER: I’ll take the heat. Listen, I am who I am. And I’m never gonna be anybody that I’m not. You know? You hear me say I’m a regular guy with a big job. I’m a small-business man who was successful. Got involved in government service. But I still see myself as a small-business man who came to Washington, to do his part, to reign in the size of the federal government. I haven’t succeeded yet.