The Monitor had John Boehner as a lunch guest with reporters today. You know Mr. Boehner. The Republican from Ohio who is now minority leader in the House and plans to replace the Democratic speaker, Nancy Pelosi. The man with the perpetual tan, whose name is pronounced BAY-ner.
I had a chance to ask him what many Americans want to know: If Republicans gain control of the House this fall and he gets the gavel, what are the three things he will do to create jobs?
He was succinct and to the point, ticking off his solutions and reasoning one browned finger at a time.
First, he would repeal "Obama-care," a giant impediment to jobs because it raises the cost of an employee. The more an employee costs, the less hiring happens.
Second, there would be no cap-and-trade climate bill. "Yes" to more more renewables, more oil exploration, more nuclear power. But the climate bill on the floor of the House just over a year ago would cost an estimated 2.5 million jobs each year for the next five years, he said.
Third, he would "not raise people's taxes." By this, he means he would extend the Bush tax cuts. Knowing now that taxes won't go up when they expire this year will help restore certainty. Uncertainty over the implementation of healthcare, cap-and-trade, and Wall Street reform is killing the jobs market.
What his three points bring home to me is how difficult it is for government to create jobs, though it can do much to squelch them. Repealing "Obama-care" is a political nonstarter. It simply won't happen as long as President Obama is in office to veto such an attempt. What might work is replacing the law with something else that both parties could grab on to, especially if the country continues to disfavor the new healthcare law.
Saying no to cap-and-trade would not create jobs. It would prevent potential future job loss from a Democratic House bill that is unlikely to be enacted any time soon. But here's the thing: We've had general energy bills such as the one Boehner suggests. They don't solve the carbon emissions problem, which must be addressed. As the Monitor has argued before, the simplest, cleanest way to reduce greenhouse gases is a carbon tax. There's a short-term cost, yes, but the long-term cost of doing nothing is higher.
Not raising taxes is the most workable idea of the three. But be forewarned that over the medium to long term, dealing with the nation's deficit and debt will probably require a combination of increased taxes and reduced spending. Britain is finding this out, though it's rightly putting emphasis on less spending.
The potential Speaker's attitude about fixing Washington was heartwarming, though one scarcely dares to hope after so many false promises from both sides.
Monitor congressional correspondent Gail Chaddock got at this question by reminding Boehner of his bipartisan effort with Democrats George Miller, on the House side, and the late Ted Kennedy, of the Senate, to produce the No Child Left Behind Act 0f 2002. This was perhaps the last major piece of bipartisan legislation to come out of Congress.
"I'll work with anybody on the other side of the aisle," said Boehner. He was proud of the fact that in the five years that he chaired the House Education Workforce Committee, Rep. Miller "and his team" had an opportunity to work with him on every bill. Republicans complain now that they are shut out from such opportunities.
His comment that "big things don't happen in Washington on partisan votes," reminded me of a caution I once heard from former Democratic Senate Leader Tom Daschle. Talking about the need for a bipartisan healthcare bill, he pointed to Australia, which passed partisan healthcare legislation only to find it repealed by the next parliament.
It's true. Solving big problems in America requires broad backing, or else grumbling and noncompliance undermine solutions.
Boehner finished up his comments on bipartisanship with a sports analogy. No professional football team succeeds by throwing Hail Mary passes on every play, "which is about what we've seen over the last 18 months." He continued: "I come from Ohio. Woody Hayes country. Three yards and a cloud of dust. Keep moving the ball down the field. It doesn't have to be a touchdown pass every single time."
Whether it's Democrat Pelosi or Republican Boehner who's in charge after November, here's all I ask. Just don't pull a Lucy on me. Please don't yank away that football of bipartisanship before we even have a chance to kick it airborne.