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Boehner counters Obama jobs pitch with call to 'liberate' economy

September 15, 2011|By Kathleen Hennessey
  • Speaker of the House John Boehner waits to address the Economic Club in Washington.
Speaker of the House John Boehner waits to address the Economic Club in Washington. (Kevin Lamarque / Reuters )

House Speaker John Boehner called on Washington to "liberate" the economy from over-regulation, anti-growth tax policies and deficit spending in a speech that outlined House Republicans' plans to rescue the flailing economy.

The remarks to the Economic Club of Washington were aimed at answering President Obama's jobs bill and countering the president's current campaign-style tour to support his proposals.

They were followed by a free-wheeling interview in which a relaxed Boehner reflected on his speakership, acknowledging that ideologically he and the president are "from two different planets."

Boehner's speech highlighted the broad approach long advocated by the Republicans and offered no new specific proposals. He made a direct pitch for tax reform -- expressing hope that a joint committee would start the process this fall -- and repeated calls to block new business regulations.

Those efforts, along with deficit reduction, would address the "triple threat" of bad policies keeping businesses on the sidelines, he said.

"Job creators in America basically are on strike," he said. "My message to Washington today on their behalf: this isn't that hard. We need to liberate our economy from the shackles of Washington. Let our economy grow."

Boehner spent little time directly addressing the details of the Obama bill, striking the somewhat conciliatory tone House GOPs have aimed for in recent weeks.

"The House will consider them, as the American people expect. Some of the president's proposals offer an opportunity for common ground," he said. "But let's be honest with ourselves. The president's proposals are a poor substitute for the pro-growth policies that are needed to remove barriers to job creation in America."

Boehner expressed skepticism about, but did not rule out, the core of Obama's plan -- an extension of a Social Security payroll tax cut, something Republicans have supported in the past. He also left the door open to increase infrastructure spending, another element of the Obama bill. He suggested such spending should be tied to increased development of domestic energy resources.

"There's a natural link between the two: as we develop new sources of American energy, we're going to need modern infrastructure to bring that energy to the market," he said.

Boehner said he was hopeful that a joint committee would "set the stage" for an overhaul of the tax code and would tackle major entitlement changes.

Following the speech, Boehner answered a range of questions on his tenure in the House. He referred to some of the House freshmen as "whippersnappers" and said only on rare occasions has he had to twist arms to win votes.

Boehner, a heavy smoker, recalled bringing some into his office and saying, "Boys, that door's not going to open until you say yes … and I have a week and a half of cigarettes in that chest."

The Ohio Republican, known for his tearing up, said he was not interested in serving as vice president because it's "hard enough for me to go to funerals of people in know." Asked whether he was having fun in his post, he responded quickly.

"Hell, no, I'm not having fun. Somebody tell me where the fun is?"

On his relationship with the president, Boehner said he and Obama "have a good relationship" but admitted that their fundamental differences, life experiences and views of government get in the way.

"Sometimes the conservations we have, it's like two different people from two different planets. I don't mean that in a derogatory way," he said.

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