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Rep. Boehner Explains GOP Strategy on CIA Tapes


And this is the first item on the agenda now for our next guest, who's joining us from Capitol Hill, Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio.

Welcome back to the program, Representative Boehner.

Representative JOHN BOEHNER (Republican, Ohio; House Minority Leader): Robert, good afternoon.

SIEGEL: You just heard the report on the CIA Director Michael Hayden's visit to the Senate today. What do you make of the CIA's destruction of those videotapes?

Rep. BOEHNER: Well, I'm not comfortable with it. And I believe Congress should have been fully briefed and consulted on the matter before they were destroyed. Both Congress and the Justice Department will and, I think, should look into the matter.

SIEGEL: Congresswoman Jane Harman, who used to be ranking Democrat on intelligence, said on this program yesterday that few years ago, she learned of these interrogations being videotaped, and she was concerned enough to send a letter saying please don't destroy any videotapes. Does that constitute, as you understand it, the will of Congress being thwarted or ignored by the CIA?

Rep. BOEHNER: Well, it's clear that the White House was unaware of the existence of these tapes, nor the fact that they were destroyed. And it's clear that the Congress - both the House and the Senate - respective intelligence committees where in the dark as well.

And so I think the investigations that are underway are warranted. And I think it's important for us to get to the bottom of what did happen.

SIEGEL: Let's move on to spending. I assume you haven't reached a spending agreement in the few minutes that you've been on the line, waiting to talk with us.

Rep. BOEHNER: Not that I'm aware of.

SIEGEL: What's happened here? Just on Sunday afternoon, I heard you telling Wolf Blitzer on CNN that your party had lost the elections in 2006 because you've lost the whole brand of fiscal responsibility. I thought you were standing with the principle - with the president, rather, on his limits for spending. Now, you've seen your way through to an extra $7 billion. What happened to you on Monday?

Rep. BOEHNER: Well, the question that was raised earlier today was over the issue of emergency spending. And, probably, it was premature because I'm only aware of some of the emergency spending that was included in the bill. But until we see the bill, you know, it's hard to comment. My point on Sunday - and frankly it has been all year - is that Republicans are here to hold the line on spending. And we've seen a lot of wasteful spending in the past. Frankly, we were responsible for some of them. And we lost the last election. We heard what people said loud and clear.

And so all year, we've made clear to the Democrat majority that we were going to work off the president's number. It's important that we hold the line on spending. And I believe that we've done that all year. We're going to continue.

SIEGEL: By the way, we heard you - I think most of us heard you as saying - you were standing shoulder-to-shoulder with President Bush on spending. And what I hear you say now is, well, it's important to hold the line, but there are also some other projects that might be worth spending on.

Rep. BOEHNER: No. Frankly, the president is in the same position that I'm in. What I said earlier today is that there's some emergency spending that's part of this package that passes the straight face test. I don't see there's a problem.

SIEGEL: And have you found $7 billion that passed the straight test - the straight face test?

Rep. BOEHNER: Well, we have not seen the bill yet.

SIEGEL: I see.

Rep. BOEHNER: We thought we were going to see the bill today, but we haven't seen it.

SIEGEL: I want to take you back to January, when we spoke the day that the new Congress opened. And you said then that the Republicans want to work with Democrats to deal with issues Americans care about. What evidence of that has there been so far since you've been leader?

Rep. BOEHNER: Well, unfortunately, Robert, there hasn't been any. You know, I've been around the Congress for 17 years. I've got some major legislative accomplishments under my bill. And all of them have been done in a bipartisan fashion from the beginning, not only in the House, but through the Senate as well. And I was hopeful that Speaker Pelosi wouldn't make some of the mistakes that the Republican majority made by overreaching and going it alone. But what we've seen all year is an effort to overreach, to only consider what the Democrat majority wants to do.

SIEGEL: She - you're saying her behavior reminds you what Republican behavior was in the last Congress, is that what you tell us?

Rep. BOEHNER: Some of it. It sure does. And at the end of the day, I think the American people want us to find a way to work together to raise all of our differences, find common ground, and move the legislative process and deal with the issues the American people sent us here to deal with. But we've not seen any of that bipartisan effort or reaching out at all as the years has progressed.

SIEGEL: Well, Representative Boehner, we'll - over the coming days, I'm sure you'll hear for some Democrats on that same script. But thank you very much for talking with us about it.

Rep. BOEHNER: Thank you.

SIEGEL: John Boehner of Ohio, the Republican House leader. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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