Q&A with House minority leader John Boehner

House minority leader John Boehner, at a July 21 Monitor lunch, discussed the GOP's chances of retaking the House in the 2010 elections and his leadership style if he became House speaker.

Michael Bonfigli/Special to The Christian Science Monitor/File
At a July 21 Monitor lunch, House minority leader John Boehner said he was not surprised by the contents of The Washington Post's 'Top Secret America' report on the government’s response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

House minority leader John Boehner of Ohio is the top Republican in the US House of Representatives, where he won a seat in 1990. He was elected majority leader in 2006, serving in that role until Democrats regained control of the House in 2007. He was the guest speaker at the July 21 Monitor lunch in Washington, D.C. On GOP chances of retaking the House in the 2010 elections:

"Our goal is to earn back the majority and to renew our efforts for a smaller, more accountable government. It is an uphill climb, but it is doable.... After Scott Brown won [the former seat of Sen. Edward Kennedy (D)] in Massachusetts, there isn't a race in America we can't win."

On his leadership style if he became speaker of the House:

"I have a pretty good handle on how I would do this job.... [Former Speaker Newt Gingrich] used to have this management saying on a wall in his office: 'Listen, learn, help, and lead.' It really encapsulates a management strategy that I have used for many years. Secondly, I grew up playing every team sport there was ... so I have always been a consensus builder."

On his top three agenda items if Republicans retake the House:

"The first thing I would do is repeal 'Obamacare.'... Not only will it ruin the best health-care system in the world ... it stands in the way of employers who want to expand their employment.... Secondly, no cap and trade. You raise the cost of energy, you raise the cost of doing business.... Making sure that does not happen will help keep jobs in America.... Thirdly, not raise people's taxes.... You can't raise taxes in the middle of a weak economy unless you want to make the situation worse."

On whether he agrees with those who say that extending unemployment benefits makes the jobless less motivated to find work:

"No, I've got real empathy for those who are unemployed.... I've got 11 brothers and sisters. I know three of my brothers lost their jobs. I'm not sure whether they have found jobs yet. So I've got a lot of empathy for those that are caught in this economic downturn."

His response to those who say the GOP is identified with the 'tea party' too much:

"Seventy-five percent of the people who show up at these events are the most average, everyday Americans you have ever met.... They represent the same values, concerns, frustration, anger, and fear that you see from tens of millions of other Americans who are not in the streets – yet. They should not be dismissed; they shouldn't be mocked.... We should listen to them."

On a Washington Post series on US intelligence activities that claimed the government response to terrorism was so unwieldy and secretive that no one knows what it costs or how many people it employs:

"It really points out the need for the [director of national intelligence] to have a stronger role in coordinating the information that is necessary for a lot of different customers around the government."

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