Leader of the Not-Democrats Party
I was at a luncheon today with House Minority Leader John Boehner at which just about every question for the Ohio Republican started the same telling way: If you become speaker....
The striking thing about Boehner’s answers at the lunch, sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor, was how little of a positive program he presented. The Republican agenda as sketched out by Boehner was more of an absence of Democratic policies than the implementation of Republican ones.
He did say that Republicans would have more to say in September, after spending next month checking in with voters. “You have to listen before you outline an agenda, and we’re listening,” he said. For the country’s sake, I sure hope they hear something worthwhile. Because what Boehner offered up was pretty unconvincing.
Asked the first three things he would do as speaker, Boehner rattled off a list that added up to Not Being Democrats.
The first: “repeal Obamacare,” which Boehner described as a “giant impediment” standing in the way of job growth. Except... President Obama won’t be signing that repeal even if it were to pass the House and Senate.
Second, “no cap-and-trade.... You raise the cost of energy, you raise the cost of doing business.” Except... no cap-and-trade legislation appears to be on its way, Republican House majority or not.
Third, ”not raise people’s taxes,” because “you cannot get the economy going again” without “giving people some certainty about what their taxes are going to be.” Except... much as Boehner & Co. would like voters to think otherwise, the only question is whether the Bush tax cuts will be extended for everyone, or for almost everyone (other than those making more than $250,000 a year.)
“On Election Day, if we win the majority a lot of the uncertainty is going to go away,” Boehner said. That, he said, “will do more to help American employers than anything we can do.”
Except... what uncertainty? Boehner mentioned another going-nowhere-fast proposal, “card check,” the labor-backed measure to make it easier for unions to organize, and another not-disappearing-anytime-soon measure, the just-signed financial services reform bill. Hard to see how having a Republican House -- or even a Republican House and Senate -- would change either of those situations.
As to getting the deficit under control, Boehner specified two items -- cancelling unused TARP funds, which would bring in $16 billion, and cancelling unspent stimulus funds, another $50 billion or so -- and then pointed to $1.3 trillion in potential cuts outlined by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) as “a pretty good list of options.” (The Ryan cuts, by the way, already include the TARP and stimulus funds.)
But Boehner didn’t specify what Ryan cuts he liked or didn’t like, and he pointedly refused to say whether or not he bought into Ryan’s broader, and rather audacious, plan to balance the budget. “Parts of it I like, parts of it I have my doubts about,” he said. Not exactly enlightening.
It’s better, no doubt, for Boehner and his party if the election is, as he put it, “a referendum on the job-killing policies that are coming out of this administration and my colleagues across the aisle." But voters are entitled to hear more from the man who would be speaker -- and to hear it before Election Day.
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