Boehner to "Birthers": Obama is a Citizen

Thursday, Jan 6, 2011  |  Updated 7:15 PM CDT
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Boehner to "Birthers": Obama is a Citizen

AP

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, speaks to the media on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 6, 2011.

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New Republican House Speaker John Boehner says he doesn't question President Barack Obama's place of birth but it's not within his purview to tell others what to think.

"The state of Hawaii has said that President Obama was born there. That's good enough for me," Boehner, R-Ohio, told NBC 's Brian Williams in an interview to air Thursday night on  NBC Nightly News.

Pressed by Williams on what he would say to members of his party who have expressed doubts about Obama's citizenry, Boehner replied: "Brian, when you come to the Congress of the United States, there are 435 of us. We're nothing more than a slice of America. People come, regardless of party labels, they come with all kinds of beliefs and ideas. It's the melting pot of America. It's not up to me to tell them what to think." 

So-called "birthers" have dogged Obama with claims that he is ineligible to be president saying there's no proof he was born in the United States. Hawaii officials say Obama was born there and point to a birth certificate showing the president's birth date of Aug. 4, 1961, city and name, along with his parents' names and races.

Earlier Thursday, a woman disrupted House Republicans' reading of the U.S. Constitution as the 112th Congress convened. She shouted from the gallery "except Obama, except Obama" as Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., was reading "no person, except a natural-born citizen, or a citizen of the United States" is eligible for the presidency. 

The woman, Theresa Cao of New York, was removed from the chambers by Capitol police. Cao, 48, was arrested on charges of unlawful conduct, disruption of Congress. She was processed at Capitol Police headquarters and released.

On other issues, Boehner told Williams in his first interview as House speaker that neither the defense nor the homeland security budgets would be exempt from consideration for spending cuts. Republicans have pledged to cut the nation's debt this year and plan a move to repeal the new health care law backed by Obama.

"You have to understand that in my opinion 'Obamacare' is the biggest job killer we have in America today.  It's a weight over every employer that we have. Thereby requiring them to hold back their willingness to hire people," Boehner said. 

Asked to name a program that the U.S. could do without to save money, Boehner said he didn't have one "off the top of my head." 

"But there is no part of this government that should be sacred," the Ohio congressman said. "I believe there's room, to find savings in the Department of Defense. There are a lot of needs at the Department of Defense. And I think (Defense) Secretary (Robert) Gates has a reasonable plan to allow the service chiefs to go in there and root out wasteful spending, so that they can find the money that they're going to need to make sure that we have the weapons of the future."

On other issues:

Emotional guy: "Listen, it's ... it's who I am. You know, there are some things I feel very strongly about. And you probably heard that I don't take myself very seriously. But I take what I do very seriously."

Smoking: Boehner said he's tried to quit from time to time — without success. "You know, it's a bad habit. I wish I didn't have it. But I have it."

What do you do for strength?: "I pray. I pray from the moment I wake up. I may pray all day long. Because ... you can't do this by yourself. Can't do it."

Advice for the young generation: "Get a decent education. Work hard. And most importantly, dream big. "

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