Burdened with governing, speaker faces scorn of GOP firebrands
John Boehner, R-Ohio, center, enters the House of Representatives chamber after surviving a roll call vote for House Speaker on Capitol Hill. Photo taken Jan. 3, 2013, by J. Scott Applewhite of the Associated Press.
Deidre Shesgreen reports:
Soon after John Boehner arrived in Washington in 1991, he became a darling of the rising conservative movement. Nobody’s idea of a moderate Republican or a wishy-washy compromiser, Boehner made a splash by challenging GOP leaders and taking on the status quo.
Now, as he begins his second term as House speaker, the West Chester Republican is the target of withering attacks from some conservatives who say he’s a spineless sellout – quick to compromise core GOP principals and ideologically rudderless as he tries to keep his grip on power.
What has changed?
The party has tilted rightward, with the influx of tea party conservatives and upstart advocacy groups. The economic and political climate has shifted, with spiraling deficits taking center stage and hyper-partisanship making compromise nearly impossible.
Boehner himself is a different lawmaker, too, gaining a pragmatic streak as he worked his way up the leadership ladder.
How much each of these factors explains Boehner’s current predicament – in which right-wing activists are blasting nearly every move he makes and his grasp on the speaker’s gavel seems tenuous – depends on whom you ask.
A spokeswoman for Boehner said he was unavailable for an interview for this story. In a statement, Boehner said: “I have always listened to the people of the 8th District and tried to represent them in Congress effectively and with integrity. As I’ve always said: If you do things for the right reasons, good things will happen. I’ve lived my life with that outlook and have no plans to change now.”
‘Ideologically’ a tea partier
Boehner’s friends and allies say his fundamental political philosophy has not changed. They say he is essentially the same rock-ribbed conservative as when he was first elected to represent Ohio’s 8th Congressional District in 1990 on a campaign of lower taxes and less government regulation. Boehner simply faces different challenges now, supporters say, because, as the most powerful Republican in Washington, he is weighted with the competing tasks of producing legislative results and leading an increasingly fractious GOP conference.
“He was tea party before there was a tea party,” said Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Genoa Township, one of Boehner’s closest friends in the House. “Ideologically, he’s still there.”
His old Cincinnati friends see him as “the same John that was a township trustee” in the 1980s, said Greg Jolivette, a former Butler County Commissioner who ran against Boehner as a Democrat in the 1990 congressional election.
“He’s walking in the tall cotton now, but he is still grounded in the same core family values that molded his career,” said Jolivette, who became a Republican after that race, saying it made him realize he had the same political views as Boehner.
“I think he’s the same person he was in 1981,” said Carlos Todd, who was elected that year along with Boehner to serve as a Union Township trustee. “He had a knack for dealing with people and getting things done, and I think he’s the same way today.” (more…)
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