John Boehner is perpetually on message. Which is why the House Speaker’s comments to Jonathan Karl of ABC News, in an interview posted this afternoon, were eye-opening. At a moment when Democrats are using Paul Ryan’s budget blueprint to blister Republicans for trampling Medicare, Boehner appeared at times to backpedal somewhat from unconditional support of the Ryan plan.
“Paul Ryan has an idea that’s certainly worthy of consideration in terms of how do we — how do we do this in a more efficient way,” Boehner said. “I voted for it. I’m for it. I’m for it. Alright? It’s our idea. It’s Paul’s idea. Other people have other ideas. I’m not wedded to one single idea, but I think it’s — we have a plan.”
Just “a plan?” Ryan’s budget is nonbinding. But every Republican in the House, save four, signed off it. To characterize it as just one idea the party is batting around isn’t quite right, and it may reveal a current of unease coursing the conference as Democratic groups whack them for the budget vote and town halls turn ugly.
That’s not the only notable moment from the one-on-one interview, filmed at a factory in Boehner’s Ohio district. As Kate noted below, the Speaker said Paul Ryan’s budget blueprint “transforms Medicare into a plan that’s very similar to the President’s own health-care bill” — an argument unlikely to play well with a conservative base that considers “ObamaCare” an abomination.
In addition, as part of his allowance that Congress should “look at” cutting tax breaks for Big Oil, Boehner acknowledged in his reasoning that the government is “short on revenues.” This may seem obvious. But it’s a marked departure from the rhetoric Republicans regularly trot out to explain why raising taxes shouldn’t be part of deficit reduction. “Washington doesn’t have a revenue problem,” Boehner said April 14. “Washington has a spending problem.”