HH: Ask and you shall receive. I mentioned on air I’d love to talk to the leader of the Republicans in the House because he was on fire yesterday and Friday. And lo and behold, he’s got a great staff, and Minority Leader John Boehner joins me now. Leader Boehner, welcome back to the Hugh Hewitt Show.
JB: Hugh, it’s good to be with you. I heard that you wanted to talk to me, so I just came in, picked up the phone, and called you.
HH: Well, thank you, because A) compliments on the press conference in the driveway on Friday, and then as well on Meet The Press. The question is, is the word getting back to the White House and to your colleagues on the other side that this stimulus, this non-stimulus package is a nightmare and it’s not going to get any Republican support?
JB: I think we’re starting to make a lot of headway. And I think there’s concern at the White House. I don’t think Nancy Pelosi and her liberal friends here in the House much give a hoot what we think. They haven’t included us in the process at all. But there’s a longer term goal here. And communicating that much of this bill is not about jobs, keeping jobs or creating new jobs, much of it’s just a bunch of wasteful, Washington spending. And so if we can continue to get that message out there, we’ll maximize the number of Republicans who are opposed to this bill. And at some point, you know, let’s hope that President Obama steps in and says whoa, whoa, whoa, time out, let’s take another look at this. Because at the end of the day, I think America needs a bill that will work.
HH: Absolutely. Now you’ve sat around with a lot of presidents and a lot of serious people over the years. This conversation you had with President Obama and his economic advisors, did he appear to actually be listening? Or was this was the show and go sort of thing, where you have the Republicans in, you pat them on the head, and then you never talk to them again? Or was he really trying to understand…in other words, does he have the ability to be persuaded about serious economic growth?
JB: Hugh, the President…one, he’s a nice guy. He’s very engaging. And let me tell you, he was listening. And we outlined our concerns about the approach that was underway here in the House. Eric Cantor, you know, did a working group for me amongst House Republicans to come up with our own ideas. Eric shared those ideas with the group. The President was listening, and he did recognize that after all, there is a difference between Democrats and Republicans, and we’re not always going to agree. But he said you have to remember, I won. Okay, you won. We know you won. But at the end of the day, he wants a bipartisan process, he wants a bipartisan bill. And if he does, at some point, he needs to step into this process and help bring some sanity to it.
HH: Can you hold the Republicans together if it doesn’t change on the House floor?
JB: I believe I can. We’ve been working all day and checking with people, and I think we’re in pretty good shape. But obviously, my goal is to maximize the number of Republicans opposed to the approach that they’re taking now in order to maximize the ability of Senate Republicans, and hopefully the President, to come in and make some changes to this bill.
HH: One of the things Eric Cantor proposed was the $7,500 dollar tax credit for new home purchases. I think that’s low, but it’s better than a lot of nothing. And did the President seem to be responsive to that? I had the chairman of the NAHB on last week talking about this very sort of thing. Did he seem to understand that housing led us into this recession, is going to lead us out of it?
JB: Well, he does understand that, but I think they’ve got other ideas and other plans. As you may know, that in order to get the votes that he got in the Senate against the motion of disapproval on those additional TARP funds, he made commitments to spend $50-100 billion dollars of the bank bailout money for housing. And so I don’t know what their ideas are, we haven’t see them yet, but clearly they’ve got some idea of how they want to approach this. I just think that if we give homeowners a tax credit to buy a different home or a new home, as long as they put at least 5% down, that we really can speed up this process. And the number is a little bit low, in my view, and it may work in the Midwest where I’m from, but it probably doesn’t work too well on the East Coast or the West Coast.
HH: Right, last question, Mr. Boehner, unless you can stay over with us, we’d love to have you, but I know you’re rushing around back there. In terms of the contraception funding that Speaker Pelosi spoke about yesterday, is that going to stay in the stimulus bill?
JB: Well, it’s not very stimulative, is it?
JB: (laughing) I don’t know how it’s going to create jobs or preserve jobs, and that’s the purpose of the bill. As you look through this bill, everything they couldn’t find funding for when they were in charge, and every goofy idea they’ve had the last fourteen years filed in the back of a file cabinet has ended up in this bill. This is exactly what the American people believe when they look up and they look at Washington, and they see all this nonsense, and they see how we’re spending their money, no wonder they get angry.
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HH: Mr. Boehner, do you expect that the Republicans will have an alternative to the stimulus package to make sure that they…will they even get a chance to put it out there and have a vote on it in the House?
JB: I believe that we…we are hearing that we’ll have an opportunity for a substitute. And our substitute will allow American families and small businesses to keep more of what they earn. And I think that will create more jobs more quickly, and help the multiplier effect in our economy really rebound from this. And I just believe that it’s a much more effective way of creating jobs and preserving jobs than a lot of big, slow-moving, wasteful government programs.
HH: You know, I served at the National Endowment for a time when I was there under Reagan, and I was on the California Arts Council for a lot of years, Mr. Boehner. Arts spending doesn’t do anything…
JB: I’m sorry about that.
HH: I know. Art spending doesn’t do anything for the job market.
JB: And we’re going to spend $50 million dollars of your listeners’ money for the National Council for the Endowment of the Arts. I don’t know…who are we going to hire? Painters? Sculptures?
HH: (laughing) I don’t know, and I was wondering, has there been any pushback on that? Are they willing to give that up?
HH: Unbelievable. Now the President brought up Rush Limbaugh in your meeting. What did he say? And why did he come up?
JB: Well, I don’t want to characterize what went on in the meeting at the White House. That’s not really appropriate. But it was just, it was really just a casual remark as though some of us were taking instructions from Rush. Now I like Rush, but he’s a talk show host, and I’m in the policy-making business. And the President already heard what we had to say, and it didn’t come from Rush Limbaugh. It came from us. And I’m the one that outlined the kind of wasteful spending in here that I don’t think will achieve the objective.
HH: Do you think the conservative base, that listens to Rush, listens to me, listens to the other talkers, are behind you?
JB: I do. I think a lot of Americans, probably more than half the American people, are looking up at some of this spending and wondering what in the world are they doing? Or they’re saying Oh. My. God. There they go again.
HH: Now what year did you go to town, Congressman Boehner?
JB: I got here in 1990.
HH: Okay, so you know, I remember the late 70s, when Democrats ran everything and we had stagflation. I’m afraid that that’s what this is a recipe for.
JB: Well, we have to remember that we’re not spending any money that we’re collecting. All this money, this trillion dollars worth of spending, is going to be paid for by our kids, our grandkids, and their kids. And at some point, while I want to revive the economy, and I want to do everything I can to help the economy, somebody has to look out for the taxpayers. And someone has to look out for the debt, because we can’t borrow and spend our way back to prosperity.
HH: Last question, Congressman, and it’s a side issue. Today, Congressman Conyers, chairman of Judiciary, issued a subpoena for Karl Rove. And I just think this is not what this country needs right now. It’s silly, it’s divisive, it’s Constitutionally suspect. Is that going anywhere? Are we going to have some witch trials?
JB: You know, I would really hope not. I saw Lanny Davis, former White House Counsel under Bill Clinton, or at least lawyer under Bill Clinton, really pooh-pooh this idea the other day, and really thought it was inappropriate, and I do, too. This is, it’s one thing to have hearings to look at what the previous administration did, or what they didn’t do. But to have some kind of ongoing witch hunt is going to create an environment where no one will go into public service. And I just think that this is John Conyers and his staff of probably the far left of the far left. But I would hope this would come to an end quickly.
HH: Leader Boehner, thanks for joining us, stand tall, stand firm, don’t let them push you around up there, and I appreciate Meet The Press and on the White House driveway last week. We’ll talk to you again soon early and often throughout this struggle.
JB: All right, Hugh, I’ll see you soon.
HH: Take care.
End of interview.