(CBS) The leading Republican in the House, and a vocal proponent of allowing an extension of the Bush-era tax cuts for all Americans, including the wealthiest 3% of earners, objected to charges by President Obama that Republicans are holding tax breaks for the bottom 97% of earners hostage unless the wealthiest also get an extension.
In a pre-taped interview to appear on CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday, Republican House Minority Leader John Boehner said that, if approving a bill to extend breaks for middle class income Americans were "the only option," he would support it.
The Congressional Budget Office has estimated extending tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans would cost $700 billion over the next decade.
At a speech in Ohio earlier this week, Mr. Obama said, "With all the other budgetary pressures we have - with all the Republicans' talk about wanting to shrink the deficit - they would have us borrow $700 billion over the next 10 years to give a tax cut of about $100,000 each to folks who are already millionaires."
"I think raising taxes in a very weak economy is a really, really bad idea, and most economists would agree with that," Boehner, R-Ohio, told CBS News chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer. "And I just think that if we're going to extend the tax cuts for some Americans, why don't we extend these current tax rates to all Americans, and get rid of some of the uncertainty that's out there, so that small businesses can plan, and reinvest in their business, and the new economy?"
"But aren't you kind of holding the tax cuts for the lower income people, the people making less than $250,000, hostage, so you can give those tax cuts to the upper brackets?" Schieffer asked. "There are a lot more people below those top brackets than are in . . . those upper brackets. Why wouldn't you want to do something for those folks?"
"I want to do something for all Americans who pay taxes," Boehner said.
"If the only option I have is to vote for some of those tax reductions, I'll vote for it. But I've been making the point now for months that we need to extend all the current rates for all Americans if we want to get our economy going again, and we want to get jobs in America."
"So you are saying you would vote for the middle class tax cuts, if that's all you can get done?" Schieffer asked.
"Bob, we don't know what the bill's going to say, alright? If the only option I have is to vote for those at $250,000 and below, of course I'm going to do that. But I'm going to do everything I can to fight to make sure that we extend the current tax rates for all Americans."
"Do you think that you can get that done before the election?' Schieffer asked.
"I don't control the agenda on Capitol Hill," Bohener said. "Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid do. I would hope that there would be an open debate, an open process, and let's let the Congress decide what the current tax rates should be and for who they should be. I think there's a growing chorus on Capitol Hill to extend all of these tax rates, and I would hope that we would do it."
But, he said he believes tax cuts for just the bottom 97% is "bad policy."
"I don't think that's going to help our economy," he said. "I think the other thing that has to happen is that we've got to cut spending. If we cut spending we will help our economy, we will send signals to the markets, we will send signals to the business community, that Washington's attempting to get its fiscal house in order."
He also recommended that a spending bill be done this month instead of after the midterm elections: "Let's go back to 2008 levels, which are about 22% below the current rates," he said. "Show the American people that we can work together to cut spending and to keep the current tax rates in order."
Boehner criticized the President's call for more spending on highways and other infrastructure as a means of job stimulation, as well as Mr. Obama's protest that Republicans are not offering new ideas to aid the economy.
"Listen, you know, the President says we've had no new ideas, but we've offered him new ideas for the last 20 months. And speaking of new, I wonder what's new about more stimulus spending, more taxes, and more uncertainty for American small businesses?
"If the President wants to get serious and wants to do something new, why don't we cut spending and get rid of this notion that we can continue to spend our way back to prosperity?"
He contested that Republicans, who have been accused of blocking legislation, are not the "Party of No."
"You have to understand, Bob, that there are large majorities of Democrats in the House and Senate, they haven't reached out to us for the last 20 months. It's not Republican standing in the way here. There's a growing course of Democrats in both the House and the Senate who believe that we should extend the current tax rates for all Americans."
Boehner said that under President Obama's proposal, "about half of all small business income will be taxed."
"These are the very people that we expect to invest in the economy and to begin creating jobs," he said. "Why would we want to punish them?"
"You keep talking about all the small business people that are going to get taxed," Schieffer said. Yet, he said, according to figures by the non-partisan Joint Committee on Taxation, only 3% would be affected by the proposal. "Do you quarrel with that figure?" he asked.
"Well, it may be 3%, but it's half of small business income, because obviously the top 3% have half of the gross income for those companies that we would term 'small businesses,'" Boehner replied. "And this is why you don't want to punish these people at a time when you have a weak economy. We need them to reinvest in their business."
When asked about his opposition to Wall Street reform legislation, which three-quarters of Americans supported, Boehner said Republicans opposed the bill because it did not address what he claimed were "the three problems that caused our financial meltdown: Fannie Mae, Freddy Mac, and subprime lending."
"What this bill's going to do, it's going to make it harder for our economy to get going again, harder to create jobs in America. Why? Because it's going to be difficult for banks to provide credit to businesses in our country under this legislation," he said. "It creates a giant new government entity, it requires 360 new rule-making requirements in our government, and puts the government in charge of making decisions about how our financial services sector is going to work. I think it is the wrong prescription for the problems that we were facing."
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