House Minority Leader John Boehner sat down with political reporters today at a lunch sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. He was asked right off the bat about what his agenda would be if Republicans win the House in November and he’s chosen as Speaker. Boehner was quick to note that his conference had just started a listening tour and that nothing would be decided until they are done. “There was a sign up in Newt’s offices when he was speaker that read ‘Listen, learn, help and lead,’ that encapsulates a movement strategy that I’ve followed,” Boehner said.
Still, when asked how things would change if he does become Speaker, Boehner wasn’t totally silent. First off, he said, he’d work to ease some of the partisan rancor that has been ripping the House apart “for the last 10 years or so.” Boehner underlined his track record working with George Miller and Teddy Kennedy on such big-ticket items as No Child Left Behind and the 2005 Pensions bill. “Breaking down some of the scar tissue that has built up on both sides of the aisle is crucial to the long-term survival of the institution,” Boehner said.
What would Boehner do to tackle long term deficits? He’d embrace trillions in cuts, some of which are laid out in Paul Ryan’s Road Map, though Boehner refused to endorse the Road Map as it had other ideas he didn’t particularly care for. He also said he’d immediately repeal health care reform as it “not only ruined the best health care system in the world, it’ll bankrupt the country.” He’d move to halt any carbon cap and trade measures and would focus on the GOP’s “all of the above” energy strategy which would increase oil and gas exploration on and off shore, alternative fuels, clean coal and nuclear. He’d also give Tarp money back to the Treasury. And, finally, he’d keep taxes as low as possible.
Boehner said that reclaiming the House is “an uphill battle, but it can be done.” To that end he hoped to recruit GOP candidates for all 435 seats – they have 431 already. “After Scott Brown won in Massachusetts we knew that there isn’t a seat we can’t win but you can’t win if you don’t have a horse in the race,” Boehner said. The most immediate change if Republicans win, he said, would be a stable business environment. “Currently businesses are sitting on about $2 trillion in capitol that they won’t use because they’re afraid of the ever-shifting business and regulatory environment,” he said.
When asked if he was in the GOP camp that believes unemployment benefits make workers lazy, Boehner said he had a lot of “empathy” for furloughed workers as three of his 11 siblings were currently out of work. “America’s sick and tired of spending and America’s sick and tired of not seeing any jobs as a result,” he said.
Boehner avoided a few landmines, refusing to discuss a Washington Times story that the RNC hid $7 million in debts the last two months. When asked if he’d quit smoking as it could set a bad example, he said he’d promised to quit with an ill friend though he admitted that pledge hadn’t yet started. Boehner did take a veiled swipe at Andrew Breitbart, saying that it was inappropriate to edit Sherrod’s tape and release it that way. Though, he also criticized the Administration for “rushing to judgment.” Finally, he said that he expected no challenge of his perch atop the GOP House conference win or lose.