John Boehner On What A Republican Congress Might Do
HH: I’m not alone in the Gopher State. Also stumping in Minnesota is leader of the House Republicans, John Boehner. Mr. Leader, welcome back to the program, great to speak to you today.
JB: Hugh, it’s great to be with you.
HH: I guess you’re here for Brad Demmer. How’s that campaign looking?
JB: I think he’s got a real opportunity down there. We’ve got a hundred races in play around the country, and 94 of those races were held by Democrats, and this is one of them.
HH: Now there was a piece by Mark Halperin on Morning Joe today, picked up by Mike Allen in Politico, where even the left-leaning Halperin suggests that the Republicans are going to pick up sixty seats. I know you don’t want to be overconfident, but when you see Time Magazine’s lead political guy saying that, you’ve got to feel like the wind is at your back, Leader Boehner.
JB: Well, our goal is to earn back the majority, and to renew the drive for a smaller, more accountable government. It’s an uphill climb, we’ve got a lot of work to do, but it is in fact possible.
HH: Let’s talk a little bit about Ohio, since you’re from there and I’m from there. What about Kasich, what about Senator Rob Portman, and what about the Ohio seats which are in play to get back?
JB: Well, I think both John Kasich, one of my former colleagues from the U.S. House, I think he’s doing well. Rob Portman’s doing very well in his race for the U.S. Senate. And we’ve got five or six seats in Ohio that Republicans can win back from the Democrats, and help change what’s going on in Washington.
HH: Have you got the money? Because they keep talking about the Democrats’ money advantage, that the www.nrcc.org doesn’t have the same kind of bank account.
JB: Well, in January, they had six times the amount of money we had. And as of the end of July, they have 1.6 times the amount of money we have. They’ve got $35 million on hand at the end of July, we have $22 million. And I can tell you that we’ve outraised them the last four months. We’ve got a lot of work to do, but we continue to raise money at, frankly, record levels. And we’ve got to do everything we can to close the gap, because we can’t let them try to buy this election. It may be their only opportunity.
HH: Now Speaker, I said Speaker, Speaker-possible Boehner, Leader Boehner, if you get the majority back, and you are the next Speaker, how quickly will you move to engage the Democrats? How quickly will you pass appropriations bills, a budget with the tax extension, and at least some nibbling away at Obamacare to start the year?
JB: Well, we’re going to outline our governing agenda later on in September. And it’s going to be about jobs, it’s going to be about spending, and it’s going to be about health care, national security, and reforming the way our government works. And we’re not going to waste a whole lot of time thinking about it. The American people want us to get serious about the problems that confront our country, and I think that under a Republican majority in Congress, you’re going to see us take that responsibility seriously.
HH: Now Leader Boehner, though, normally it’s the fall before appropriations bills are passed. And the budget, if there is a budget resolution, takes two or three months. I don’t know about you, but I think that huge crowd on the Mall and what it represented across the country wants a new majority to move quickly, to at least put before the Senate and the President a serious agenda of reform, and not the business as usual, and not the usual calendar. How quickly can you move?
JB: Well, I think that’s still a big question. If, in fact, we gain the majority, that means we’re going to have at least sixty new members of Congress. And when we begin to look at changes to the committee process, it’s going to take time to implement that as well. But I can tell you that a Republican-led Congress will be serious about reducing spending in Washington, D.C., getting our economy back on track, and getting the American people back to work.
HH: Will it give enough confidence to the markets, though, just that you’ve won, as opposed to, say, getting back their passing a budget resolution that embodies the extension of the Bush tax cuts…and by the way, would that be a priority, extending the Bush tax cuts?
JB: Oh, absolutely, and I’m hopeful that that’ll happen before the year is over.
HH: How do you think that…with the Democrats in power still?
JB: Well, I’m going to tell you what. I hear the President say that we’re going to tax the rich, and I hear Nancy Pelosi say it. But these are the very people, half of that income is small business income. These are the very people that we expect to invest in our economy and get the economy going again, and get people back to work. And the government takes the money. It’s not going to get invested in our economy. And I just keep listening, and I keep seeing this chorus of Democrats in the House and Senate grow, who understand that if we raise taxes on the most productive people in America, we’re going to kill any chance of a recovery. Oh, I’m optimistic.
HH: Okay, I’m assuming they don’t. I hope you push for it. I hope you go for it. But I doubt they will. If they don’t, can you commit that by the end of February, there will be a budget resolution that at least out of the House, that embodies extending the Bush tax cuts?
JB: Well, Hugh, listen, I’m not Barack Obama, I’m not Nancy Pelosi. I say what I mean, and I mean what I say, and I don’t make commitments that I can’t keep. Now it’s hard for me in August to say when the budget resolution is going to move. But I am going to tell you that we’re going to take our job seriously and responsibly. And we’re going to have a responsible budget resolution. We’re going to move our appropriation bills in a timely fashion. And there are a lot of, a whole host of other things that we’re going to do, and you’ll see that governing agenda, again, later on in September.
HH: Do you get, though, what I’m getting at, that I wrote about today at Hughhewitt.com, which is that the big crowd on the Mall, and the public, generally, doesn’t want business as usual. They don’t want the standard legislative calendar, you know, with the Washington, D.C. maneuvering and all the lobbyists. They want action. And if you get a big, new majority, they’re going to look to you. It’s going to be your moment. It’s going to be John Boehner’s House to just jam and ram, if necessary.
JB: Well, I think things actually begin to improve the day after the election, because it’s going to be pretty clear the day after the election, if we’re in the majority, that we’re not going to be raising taxes on the American people. There’s not going to be any cap and trade legislation that’s going to pass a Republican Congress. We’re not going to continue the spending spree that Washington’s been on for the last 20 months. When that uncertainty begins to clear, people then begin to understand what the rules are, and are willing to reinvest in the economy. I mean, today there are two trillion dollars of corporate profits sitting in bank accounts, because businesses are scared to death. They don’t know what the rules are going to be.
HH: Well, I agree with that. But wasn’t part of Newt Gingrich’s mistake back in ’95, that he waited until the government was about to shut down to present spending bills to the president, and isn’t it better to push that agenda to him earlier in the summer so you don’t have to shut the government down? And he sits there and he vetoes it, and it goes back and forth?
JB: Well, if you recall, it wasn’t the problem in the House in terms of getting the spending bills through the House. The problem was over in the United States Senate where these spending bills just weren’t coming out. And then, you know, we had to go to the president with a continuing resolution to try to keep the government going, and it was Bill Clinton who decided it was time to shut the government down, because he thought he had an advantage on us.
HH: He won that round, didn’t he? Didn’t Bill Clinton win that?
JB: Oh, I’ll tell you what, it was a brutal round. I don’t think we should have thrown in the towel. But we didn’t have the votes to stand tall against his spending scheme then. I think we’ll have the votes this time, because the members in my caucus, they get it. They get what those people on the Mall were talking about over the weekend. It’s time for America to get serious about confronting the problems that we face.
HH: John Boehner, will you not throw in the towel if you’re in one of those confrontations, as Newt was with Bill Clinton? If you’re in one of those with Barack Obama, will you throw in the towel?
JB: I won’t throw in the towel, because I know what’s at stake. And it’s the future of our country. And we can’t continue to spend like this, we can’t continue to tax like this, and expect that we’re going to have a healthy economy. And we need a healthy economy, and more people working and caring for their own families, and paying taxes, if we’re going to close this big budget problem we have in Washington, D.C.
HH: Now what did you make of that crowd on the Mall? What did it say to you?
JB: It said to me everything that I’ve seen all year in every part of the country, that the American people are in open rebellion against their government.
HH: And is that a good thing?
JB: I think it’s a good thing. When the American people get engaged in their government, it’s the healthiest thing for our democracy. And to see those hundreds of thousands of people on the Mall on Saturday, all it did was renew my faith in America, and renew my faith in the American people that they want change in Washington, and they want it now. And they can have it now if they elect a Republican majority, and if they stay engaged in the process.
HH: Last question, John Boehner, last week, the White House put on its website a quote from you, from this show a few months ago when you said the stimulus hadn’t produced jobs. I agree with you, but do you stand by that, that the stimulus has failed?
JB: Listen, I never said it wouldn’t create one job in America, all right? But the stimulus bill has failed. The President’s economic team has failed. And they failed by their own standards. They’re the ones who said when I sign this bill, unemployment will not exceed 8%. And yet, we have unemployment at 9.5% nationwide, and much higher amongst African-Americans, and much higher amongst Hispanics in America. They are the ones who said when I sign this bill, we will create jobs immediately. And yet, nearly three million Americans have lost their jobs since this bill was signed into law. It has failed.
HH: John Boehner, always a pleasure, look forward to talking to you again between now and the election. I think you’re the next speaker of the United States Congress, America. John Boehner.
End of interview.