Boehner to Obama: "Work with us"

In the days after Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot, there was a new sense of unity in Congress. In last year's State of the Union address, some Democrats and Republicans broke with tradition and sat side by side instead of across the aisle. But that unity did not last long and Congress couldn't get much done last year. Will this year be any different? "CBS Evening News" anchor Scott Pelley sat down with Speaker Boehner earlier Tuesday. A transcript follows.

Pelley: You know how frustrated many Americans are across the country at what's perceived to be a lack of progress in Washington. Calibrate for me, how would you characterize the gulf between the White House and the House of Representatives right now?

Boehner: Well, you know, the big problem is this: The president's policies have failed. And I'm afraid, based on everything that I'm hearing about tonight's speech, that he's gonna offer more of the same: higher taxes, more spending, more regulation. These policies have not only not helped the economy-- I'd argue they've made it worse.

And so we have big ideological differences. But having said that, the American people expect us to find common ground. To do that, we've reached out to the president: "Work with us."

Pelley: The president might say, "I'm trying to work with you, but Mr. Speaker you don't have control of your entire party, that there are factions in your party who won't go along."

Boehner: Every time the president and I have been able to come to an agreement, we've not had any problems passing that agreement here in the House of Representatives. But Scott, I think it's important to note that the president checked out last Labor Day. He spent the last four months doing nothing but campaigning. He hasn't been engaged in the process. And if the president wants us to work together, it takes two to tango. The president needs to be engaged as well.

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Pelley: But so much of what the president wants to do in terms of tax policy involves higher taxes on some Americans. Can you compromise on that?

Boehner: I don't believe that raising taxes on the American people in this troubled economy will do anything but make the current situation worse.

Pelley: You can't reform the tax code in an election year.

Boehner: Oh, I don't know about that.

Pelley: Do you think you might?

Boehner: I believe it's important to the country. It would make America more competitive, it would help create jobs in our country. There's no reason we shouldn't try.

Pelley: And your message to the president going forward now is what?

Boehner: Just extend somewhat of an olive branch. Let's find some common ground to work together.

Pelley: You're open for business?

Boehner: Always.

Both Speaker Boehner and President Obama seem confident that they will get an agreement on extending the payroll tax cut and extending long-term unemployment benefits for another year. Both are due to expire next month.

  • Scott Pelley

    Anchor and Managing Editor, "CBS Evening News;" Correspondent, "60 Minutes"

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