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John Boehner, would-be Speaker, pitches his roadmap to fix Congress

Rep. John Boehner, who would be first in line to become Speaker if Republicans retake the House in Election 2010, forwards his plan for how to curb spending and ease gridlock in Congress.

By Staff writer / September 30, 2010

House minority leader John Boehner of Ohio talks with a member of the audience before addressing the American Enterprise Institute in Washington Thursday.

J. David Ake/AP



In a wide-ranging speech Thursday, House minority leader John Boehner (R) of Ohio said that the 111th Congress was “not so much concluding as it is collapsing,” and signaled how Republicans would change the House if voters give them back the majority on Nov. 2.

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Republicans have hunkered down in solid opposition to nearly all of the Obama agenda from health-care reform to climate change legislation. If Congress is broken, Democrats say, it’s because Republicans won’t let it work.

But Congressman Boehner – now in reach of becoming the next Speaker, if Republicans do as well in midterm elections as surveys suggest – is proposing a way to break the culture of gridlock and out-of-control spending that he says both parties have had a hand in creating.

“These wounds have been self-inflicted by both parties, and if we do not fix them, it’s possible no one will,” he told an audience at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington.

Amid grand designs, however, was also a note of calculation. If Boehner is to become Speaker, it will be on the on the back of scores of freshmen Republicans, many steeped in “tea party” principles. In this light, his speech Thursday also served as an attempt to offer them the hope that, with him as Speaker, they can begin to remake Congress – and the country – in the image of their small-government ideals.

A roadmap to ease gridlock

As it is, gridlock is so severe that the House is in a state of emergency, he said – a view shared by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. He noted that even simple, constitutionally assigned tasks, such as passing annual spending bills or a budget to set national priorities, didn’t get done this year. Moreover, Congress has not yet gotten around to preventing the Bush-era tax cuts from expiring on Dec. 31, he added.

Boehner acknowledged how his own party had fallen short when it was in power from 1995 to 2006. Both parties presided over fiscal recklessness and a breakdown of regular order, he said. The antidote: a fair debate and a fair vote, he said.

“The ultimate measure of whether we have a functioning House is not bipartisanship. Our focus shouldn’t be on working across party lines for its own sake,” he said. “The true test is whether our ideas, policies, and values are able to stand the test of a fair debate and a fair vote. And sadly, that’s something we have not seen in the House for some time.”