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Boehner: Obama wrong to push 'class warfare'

By Tom Cohen, CNN
updated 10:48 AM EST, Sun November 6, 2011
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The House speaker says his relationship with the president is "pretty good"
  • Boehner is open to increasing tax revenue, as long as Democrats will cut spending
  • Crafting a deficit reduction deal is hard work but not yet at an impasse, Boehner says

Washington (CNN) -- House Speaker John Boehner says he and President Barack Obama have a "pretty good relationship," but he also criticized Obama for fomenting what Boehner called "class warfare" in the political debate over spending, taxes and job creation.

In an interview broadcast Sunday on ABC's "This Week" program, Boehner defended Republican opposition to efforts by Obama and Democrats to increase taxes on wealthy Americans as part of deficit reduction and job creation measures.

"Come on. The top 1% paid 38% of income taxes in America," Boehner, R-Ohio, said in the interview taped Friday when asked about the persistent GOP stand against tax increases. "How much more do you want them to pay?"

Obama has crafted a campaign theme of Republicans defending the wealthy against tax cuts as part of a narrative that Boehner said was intended to pit segments of society against each other.

"We are not going to engage in class warfare," Boehner said, adding: "The president's clearly trying to do it, and it's wrong."

Republicans generally want to cut government spending and debt by shrinking the size of government and therefore oppose raising taxes or adding new tax revenue.

However, Boehner and some other Republicans advocate the possibility of increasing government revenue through a revised tax code that lowers rates but expands the number of taxpayers.

Such a step would only be acceptable "as long as our colleagues on the other side are serious about cutting spending," Boehner said in the ABC interview.

During negotiations with Obama this year on a possible comprehensive deficit reduction deal, Boehner reportedly agreed to as much as $800 billion in additional revenue as part of the package.

The talks broke down over differences on the tax issue and entitlement cuts, and Boehner said in the interview that the specific trade-offs discussed then with Obama appeared out of reach now.

"I think it's hard to put Humpty Dumpty back together again," he said. When asked how much additional revenue Republicans could accept in a deal, Boehner responded: "That's the $64 million question. Nobody knows."

A special joint congressional committee created to work out a deficit reduction deal faces a November 23 deadline, with no breakthrough in sight.

Boehner disagreed that the 12-member panel -- evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats from the House and Senate -- was at an impasse, but he emphasized the issues being tackled were hard -- too hard for he and Obama to resolve.

"Nobody (was) more upset that we couldn't come to an agreement, the president and I, than I was," Boehner said.

As far as he and the president are concerned, "it's been a little frosty here the last couple of weeks, but we've got a pretty good relationship."

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