Boehner Says He Doesn't Want to Default, But That's 'The Path We're On'

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If you stopped thinking about stashing money under your mattress when reports emerged last week that John Boehner said privately that he would let Democrats vote for a bill to raise the debt ceiling, be advised that the Republicans are learning how threats work. "We're not going to pass a clean debt limit increase," Boehner told George Stephanopoulos on This Week. "The votes are not in the House to pass a clean debt limit. And the president is risking default by not having a conversation with us." Boehner and other House Republicans don't want to cause an economic meltdown, but since there aren't enough Republican votes in the House, they really have no choice. "That's the path we're on," said Boehner. "[Obama] knows what my phone number is. All he has to do is call."

Boehner continued to insist that when House Republicans repeatedly voted to shut down the government unless President Obama defunded or delayed his own health care law, they were just trying to "provide fairness to the American people under Obamacare." Dismissing reports that there may be enough Republican support to pass a "clean" continuing resolution, Boehner said the president agreeing to negotiate is the only way out of the shutdown. "The American people expect in Washington, when we have a crisis like this, that the leaders will sit down and have a conversation," he said. "I told my members the other day, there may be a back room somewhere, but there's nobody in it."

Similarly, Boehner said he won't raise the debt limit without "a serious conversation about dealing with problems that are driving the debt up," because, "It would be irresponsible of me to do this." Boehner suggested he wants that conversation to be about cutting the deficit through spending cuts for entitlement programs, but as Stephanopoulos noted, what Boehner wants doesn't seem to be what's driving this crisis. (On CNN's State of the Union, Ted Cruz said Republicans should tie the debt ceiling to their Obamacare demands as well.)

Boehner bristled when Stephanopoulos suggested the showdown over Obamacare was merely thrust upon him. "I thought the fight would be over the debt ceiling," Boehner admitted. "But you know, working with my members, they decided, well, let’s do it now. And the fact is, this fight was going to come, one way or the other. We’re in the fight."