House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said on Monday that Obama needs to "grow up and get serious" about deficit reduction, while also suggesting it may be time to consider ending tax breaks for oil and gas companies.
"While I didn't agree with everything [Obama's deficit-reduction panel] did, there was a lot in their proposal that was worth of consideration," Boehner said in an ABC News interview (video below).
"And what did the president do? He took exactly none of his own deficit reduction commission's ideas. Not one. Come on!"
Boehner also accused Obama of not being "honest with the American people" about the deficit conversation, arguing that he told Republicans one thing behind closed doors and another in his speech.
Among the proposals Boehner said Republicans should consider is putting an end to tax breaks for oil and gas companies.
In each year of his administration, President Obama has proposed rolling back the approximately $4 billion in annual tax incentives enjoyed by the oil companies—an idea that has been consistently rejected by Republicans and the oil industry.
But in Monday's interview, Boehner said, “I don’t think the big oil companies need to have the … allowances.” Asked if he would consider the president’s proposal to roll back oil tax breaks, Boehner replied, “Certainly I think it’s something we ought to be looking at.”
"We're in a time when—when the federal government is short on revenues. We need to control spending but we need to have revenues to keep the government moving. And they ought to be paying their fair share."
Some Democratic staffers said the remarks sounded to them like a significant policy shift, but, speaking anonymously, Republican staffers said that comments are less a policy shift and more a necessary rhetorical reaction to political attacks on the oil industry.
Boehner spokesman Michael Steel later tried to push back on Boehner's remarks, saying that a major cooperative effort to roll back oil incentives is not in the offing. "Our goal is to lower gas prices and we'll look at any reasonable policy to do that. Unfortunately, what the president has suggested so far would simply raise taxes and increase the price at the pump."
“The Speaker made clear in the interview that raising taxes was a non-starter, and he’s told the President that. He simply wasn’t going to take the bait and fall into the trap of defending 'Big Oil' companies," Steel added.
As soaring gasoline prices dominate the political debate, both parties have attempted to harness the issue to push their agenda and attack the other side.
Republicans have slammed the administration for its slow pace of releasing new offshore drilling permits after the Gulf spill.
Led by Obama, Democrats have attacked Republicans in part by linking them to the interests of big oil companies—especially in GOP's defense of the drilling tax breaks. The White House is intensifying that rhetoric this week as oil companies are expected to announce significant, if not record, quarterly profits.
Democrats and environmentalists have attacked Republicans as hypocrites for defending the oil tax breaks even as they attempt to move budget legislation that would slash billions of dollars in other programs, including health, education, environmental protection, and other public services.
In his weekly address, Obama sought to link his efforts to cut the oil tax breaks to efforts to reduce the deficit, a concept hammered home by White House spokesman Jay Carney on Monday.
“I think most Americans would agree with the president that it’s simply crazy and unsustainable to continue to subsidize the oil and gas companies when we need to reduce our deficit and invest elsewhere,” Carney said.