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Posted at 1:07 PM ET, 01/ 6/2011

Underwhelmed by Speaker Boehner

By Ruth Marcus

Nancy Pelosi spoke of combating climate change, ensuring college affordability, expanding access to health care, ending the war in Iraq. Newt Gingrich envisioned a balanced budget amendment, welfare reform, tax cuts, deregulation, term limits.

John Boehner promised... well, not very much. The 112th Congress, he said, will not "kick the can" or "fall short." It will be "the people's House," a place where "we can disagree without being disagreeable to each other." There will be an end to "business as usual." And, oh yes, "honest debate and a fair, open process."

If you programmed a computer to generate a speech laden with cliches; solemnly vowing to achieve the unobjectionable; and all but devoid of substance, it would have come up with something approximating Boehner's remarks.

A new House speaker's remarks upon taking the gavel may be the ultimate in little-noted nor long-remembered speeches. Certainly, Boehner isn't the first incoming speaker to peddle platitudes; these speeches are the appropriate moment for airy promises of bipartisanship. Humility never hurts. So perhaps saying almost nothing -- and nothing that can come back to haunt you -- is smart politics.

Perhaps, but I was underwhelmed.

I'd probably disagree with much of Boehner's agenda, but I would have preferred at least to have him share it. Listen to the Gingrich 1995 speech and you hear his restless intelligence and visionary conservatism. Listen to Pelosi's from 2007, and you know the substance of what she wants to get done. Listen to Boehner's, and you hear a lot about changing House rules: three days to read bills, smaller committees, a new openness to letting the minority offer amendments during floor debate.

Watch that last one, by the way. New majorities have a tendency to promise to treat the minority better than they themselves were treated -- only to renege on that vow when it turns out, inevitably, to be inconvenient. Democrats failed to live up to their pledges of fairness to the minority after they retook power. I don't doubt that Boehner is sincere in intending to perform differently, but I also won't be surprised if the new House bosses turn out to be just as unfair as the old ones.

Since the closest Boehner edged to substance in Wednesday's speech involved House rules, let's focus on one specific change he mentioned. "Old rules that have made it easy to increase spending," the new speaker said, "will be replaced by new reforms that make it easier to cut spending."

Not exactly. The previous pay-as-you-go rule required lawmakers to find a spending cut or new revenue to finance any cut in taxes or increase in mandatory spending. (Such as, for example, the Medicare prescription drug bill that the previous Republican majority passed without paying for.)

The new, Republican pay-go rule only requires that spending increases be paid for -- and then only with a spending cut. Tax cuts can whiz through the new House. In short, the Republican version of pay-go makes deficit spending much easier than it was before.

"Hard work and tough decisions will be required of the 112th Congress," Boehner said. Yes, and removing a speed bump in the way of higher deficits isn't a promising way to begin.

By Ruth Marcus  | January 6, 2011; 1:07 PM ET
Categories:  Marcus  | Tags:  Ruth Marcus  
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So you prefer Gingrich and Pelosi who both were too ideological for the people and led to their parties' rejection. Maybe Boehner actually learned lessons about what shouldn't be repeated and acted accordingly. Maybe he actually does intend to listen to and follow the policies the public prefers.

Posted by: Ashland | January 6, 2011 1:35 PM | Report abuse

It is always a good thing for liberals like Marcus and Dionne to come out of the gate carping and underestimating. Their specuious columns have been underwhelming in logic for the last 2 years. Underestimate the GOP at your own risk this time. I'm that independent voter that through out Dionne & Marcus's liberal doofuses. The House Dems have a problem. Their caucus is actually short about 20 or 30 members who voted against Pelosi yesterday. They will move with the GOP because they aren't knee-jerk liberals like the rest of their caucus. Marcus, you & Dionne will carp for the next 20 months and then find the political landscape went even further to the right. Daly help Obama with business? Probably not. Anybody who signs on with Obama is viewed through the prism of being a liberal. The indivual's history doesn't count. We know Obama is not moving to the center when he talks about trying to do his agenda with executive orders and regulations. His agenda is bad for the Country. Liberals are going to have gnash their teeth now.

Posted by: TinCity1 | January 6, 2011 1:51 PM | Report abuse

Of course Ruth is underwhelmed. Speaker Boehner is continuing his long tradition of under-acheivement. How he ever rose to a leadership position in the Republican party has long been a mystery. He has never shown one iota of leadership in his long career. The guy is your basic go-with-the-flow hanger on that lets everyone else carry the water and then claims credit for the work accomplished. The next couple of years should be interesting.

Posted by: truthwillout | January 6, 2011 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Thank you Ruth Marcus for finding a way for
me to charitably describe my evaluation of
Boehner. Underwhelming is perfect.

Posted by: csmithsmithusa | January 6, 2011 2:14 PM | Report abuse

I love you Ruth, but it's now apparent that our Democratic system of government's performance has been underwhelming for far too long. When an organization becomes bankrupt it becomes time for a reorganization. The proposed big new family home, the new Lexus, the next trip to Europe, etc. are now all out of the question. It's become time to start cutting up the credit cards, start budgeting, and start selling some of the assets in order to pay off the debt.

Posted by: johnson0572 | January 6, 2011 2:48 PM | Report abuse

I alrady read the Post's unprejudiced coverage of Boehner, so I already know he's underwhelming.

Posted by: slatt321 | January 6, 2011 4:00 PM | Report abuse

Captain Orange will spend so much time in a tanning booth, he won't have time to get anything done.

Posted by: thomasmc1957 | January 6, 2011 4:31 PM | Report abuse

Love to see Ruth Marcus voting record. Where do these leftists come from?

Posted by: mobilemavy | January 6, 2011 4:47 PM | Report abuse

So you want instant jornalistic gratification that will make it easier for you to write a column. A lot of political promises upfront so that you can print them and comment on them . Maybe you could write something about someone who considers things carefully without immediate, but empty promises. Take a look at yor own comments--not much substance--at least of your own origin. Merely a rehash of history. Pelosi-combating climate change(that may not exist;ensuring college affordability(translated -free college to buy future votes;Welfare reform(meaning more giveaways);Expanding access to health care(socializing health care--and of course"we won't know what's in the bill until we pass it")Ending the war in Iraq(she didn't have a clue what she was saying)Gringrich wasn't much better. So, you want promises--bold talk--better to have substance and careful thought over a multi-millionare socialist who throws colleagues under the bus, is a puppet on a string for the executive branch, and wouldn't be elected in any other district but her own. Totally mindless rhetoric.

Posted by: abtz | January 6, 2011 4:51 PM | Report abuse

I am not turned off by Boehner's address. If he can really deliver on his promise of more civility, which few speakers have been able to do. I view Boehner every bit as dubiously and unfavorably as other commentators here do, but I am willing to give him a chance to see what he does before I begin attacking him. If he avoids the nasty Tea Party rhetoric that marred the last election, that at least is a positive step that Congress needs to take.

Posted by: samsara15 | January 6, 2011 5:08 PM | Report abuse

I don't care what color his skin is any more than i do Obama's. I care that this guy breaks tradition with the current republican agenda of creating a two class communist state while funneling all the working class wealth to the chosen few! If he continues the Nixon/Reagan/Bush/Bush trashing of America's morality then he and I will throw down and it will not be pretty. For way too long we haqve made excuses for criminal behavior because it was done by "leaders" and that stops now or we parrish in a cloud of our own making!

Posted by: anOPINIONATEDsob | January 6, 2011 5:10 PM | Report abuse

Like all republicans, Boehner is an empty suit with no substance. Americans already have buyers remorse from returning the very party that created the Great Recession (Republicans) to office in the Congress. What were Americans thinking?

Posted by: vintel7 | January 6, 2011 5:10 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps the reason you feel "underwhelmed" is apropos, considering that the Speaker respectfully understands that the rest of us are tired of being "overwhelmed", i.e. Pelosi/Reid ramming thru a Healthcare Bill that the majority (60%) of Americans did not want, and which was probably closer to 90% of tax paying Americans. What better description could be offered for the Congress and in fact the Executive also, than "underwhelming"!

Posted by: Snead1 | January 6, 2011 5:16 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps the reason you feel "underwhelmed" is apropos, considering that the Speaker respectfully understands that the rest of us are tired of being "overwhelmed", i.e. Pelosi/Reid ramming thru a Healthcare Bill that the majority (60%) of Americans did not want, and which was probably closer to 90% of tax paying Americans. What better description could be offered for the Congress and in fact the Executive also, than "underwhelming"!

Posted by: Snead1 | January 6, 2011 5:16 PM | Report abuse

I was very "underwhelmed" by this article.

Posted by: r_leever | January 6, 2011 5:24 PM | Report abuse

Underwhelmed by By Ruth Marcus. How about using your position to praise anyone that pushes for fiscal realism in Washington DC. 14 Trillion in debt. Enough already! For the average Joe...when the bank calls your loan, you have to settle up. How would America feel if they had to settle up with their own government debt. A sick thought. But it offers perspective to the big spenders out there. Get real!

Posted by: RobMc1 | January 6, 2011 5:42 PM | Report abuse

I have no doubt that the GOP will do everything in its power to undo whatever the Democrats have done for good or ill. It's all about power and money.
The GOP will gut every social program they can that provides aid to the most needy and vulnerable in our nation while ensuring that the rich and corporations receive the most assistance in every manner possible. The GOP will do everything that the corporations ask them to do about cutting out regulations and rules that protect the American people.

Boner (oops Boehner) has very little to commend himself. He will, I have no doubt, continue to spout the GOP rhetoric while enriching himself and his party.

The Democrats hands are no cleaner.

The Tea Party -- aka TP or toilet paper -- will be siding up to the trough and digging in and filling up.

Our system is corrupt, ineffectual, and, sadly, the American people are paying the price.

If our politicians really wanted to save America money they could end these never-ending wars and all the military industrial complex contracts. They could close our military bases around the world and spend our tax dollars in America rebuilding and renovating our nation.

But I guess that makes too much sense.

It's easier for the politicians to pontificate and profit than to help America.

Posted by: abbydelabbey | January 6, 2011 6:03 PM | Report abuse

Well, "no" was never very much of a strategy.

Posted by: Nymous | January 6, 2011 7:37 PM | Report abuse

C.mon, Boehner is an alcoholic. Dysfunctional, emotionally volatile and unpredictable.

Posted by: Manwolf | January 6, 2011 8:02 PM | Report abuse

The defense budget is obviously what needs so be cut, however that can't be cut as now it supports far too many jobs and districts throughout the country. Until the fallacy that it is un-American to talk about defense spending cuts is dismantled the debate will not even truly get started. We can't compete with China in manufacturing, the finance sector brings money disproportionately to the rich (and unfortunately more often than not sources the money from the middle and working classes) so sadly it is weapons and military hardware that we rule supreme.

Posted by: kumomichi | January 6, 2011 8:10 PM | Report abuse

Pelosi had an "agenda" that majority of Americans totally disagreed with.
Boehner is doing what America's asked him to do: repeal ObamaCare, for starters.

Posted by: ohioan | January 6, 2011 11:35 PM | Report abuse

Seriously , I challenge you Boehner / Republican supporters and defenders to do a Google search and actually read what you find , type in Boehner , golf $ , Lobbyist land lord , come on , you guys are always tough talkers , see if you can handle it ! Also take a look at Boehner , tobacco industry / checks , lobbyist and corporate interests . If you are anywhere in the middle class or lower and you support Boehner and the Republicans you are quite simply a self sabotaging fool .

Posted by: Koom | January 6, 2011 11:44 PM | Report abuse

Snead1 , no surprise but you must be using Limbaugh's , Beck's or Hannity's numbers , the majority to this very day are in favor of the health care bill , in fact only this week there was a major poll taken ( by CNN and ? ) , the majority were in favor of the bill , in fact many said it didn't go far enough in providing for and protecting we the people , check it out for yourself . Serious question , do you guys even care about actual facts and truths ? America the beautiful , the only modern and supposedly civilized country in the entire world that does not provide health care for it's people , the needless middle men the Insurance companies who do nothing but send out the bills , take the money and pay out what ever amount they decide and pocket the rest , the wealthy investors and their profiting off of peoples sickness , disease and misfortune comes first and is more important if you are a Republican ! We spend more money than the rest of the world put together on the military and so called defense , the biggest money laundering operation on planet earth but cannot afford to provide health care for the people ? By the way , the independent congressional budget office says this bill , imperfect as it is , will cut the deficit by trillions over the next twenty years , continuing as is will be impossible , unsustainable .Wise up people !

Posted by: Koom | January 7, 2011 12:08 AM | Report abuse

"In short, the Republican version of pay-go makes deficit spending much easier than it was before."

Considering that the Republicans could not even CORRECTLY swear in the new Congress, that is par for the course. So they are following in the foot steps of those deficit hawks: Reagan (tripled the debt) and Bush (doubled the debt).

Posted by: AMviennaVA | January 7, 2011 2:57 PM | Report abuse

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