Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) went over his tenure in office during an emotional exit interview with Fox News that aired Friday.
Boehner was replaced this week by now-House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin), ending his 25-year tenure in the legislative chamber. He will resign from Congress at the end of the month.
Asked directly if he accomplished what he came to Washington to do, Boehner suggested that he only served as a soldier in a never-ending “fight.”
“I played a role in a fight that’s been going on for over 200 years — over the appropriate size, scope, and cost of government,” he said. “But I began to realise over the years that there’s no winning this fight. It’s going to be this constant struggle over how big should Washington be.”
Boehner described his biggest regret as never reaching the elusive 2011 “grand bargain” with President Barack Obama to resolve a debt-ceiling dispute, raise revenue, and enact massive entitlement reform. That deal suddenly fell apart, and Obama and Boehner have different accounts over who holds the blame for shattering the agreement.
“The debt deal with the president that fell apart. No ifs, ands, or buts,” he said when asked about his regrets.
Fox News gave Boehner the hypothetical choice of passing comprehensive immigration reform, repealing Obamacare, or the grand bargain. Boehner was unequivocal in which one he’d choose.
“The grand bargain by far. It would have really meant a lot for our economy,” he said. “It would have put our entitlement programs on a stronger foundation, no question.”
Earlier in the interview, Boehner described how close he felt he came to achieving that grand bargain. Boehner said Obama had agreed to the massive deal but reneged, causing “the country to have a real struggle” and go “through a lot more than it needed to as a result.”
“We had an agreement,” he said. “Shook hands with the president. The deal was done. Over $US5 trillion worth of deficit reduction. It would have meant tens of trillions of dollars over the next 20 years in terms of really fixing our entitlement programs and getting us onto a much more solid foundation. I was shocked that the president walked away from the agreement.”
Boehner was also asked about his proudest moment and was similarly equivocal: Pope Francis’ speech before a joint session of Congress last month. Boehner, a devout Catholic, announced his upcoming resignation the day after the pope spoke.
“The pope. Listen, I’m an altar boy from Reading, Ohio, all right? Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church. And I tried for 20 years to get a pope to come and address a joint session of Congress. And I was able to do it while I was the speaker. It was a big day,” he said.
Watch his full interview below:
NOW WATCH: Boehner was overcome by emotion when talking about the pope during his resignation announcement
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