Leader Speaking Out
John Boehner pledges to lead a different kind of House.


Kathryn Jean Lopez


On the eve of the House Republicans’ official release of their governing agenda for the 112th Congress, House GOP leader John Boehner of Ohio took questions from National Review Online’s Kathryn Jean Lopez.

Kathryn Jean Lopez: What is the point of this agenda?

Rep. John Boehner: Washington hasn’t been listening to the people. And as we state in the preamble of the Pledge to America, when Washington isn’t listening, the American people have a right to demand a new governing agenda. The Pledge is our statement on the immediate steps that need to be taken to put us on the road to the smaller, less costly, more accountable government the American people are demanding. Led by Kevin McCarthy [R., Calif.], who did an incredible job on this, we spent months talking to the American people about their priorities and concerns. And then, using that input, we built a new governing agenda to address those priorities through our principles of freedom and smaller government. We said back at the beginning of the year that the American people wouldn’t accept an agenda that was just handed down to them by a bunch of politicians. It was important to go out beyond the Beltway and engage Americans in a dialogue first. We have to demonstrate we know the American people are in charge.

Lopez: Is it, in your mind, an anti-Obama/anti-Pelosi/anti-Reid agenda? A response to failure? Would you use the word “failure”?

Rep. Boehner: I haven’t hesitated to use the word failure to describe the economic policies of the president and his current team. I’m a former small businessman, and before I came to serve in Congress I saw firsthand the way government can crush job creation in this country. Uncertainty kills jobs, and under this administration, there hasn’t been anything but uncertainty for small businesses and private-sector job creators. The Pledge to America is focused first and foremost on jobs, cutting spending, and reforming Congress. The American people are demanding action to end uncertainty for small businesses and help our economy get back to creating jobs. And at the core of the Pledge is an idea Washington just hasn’t tried before: the idea that the path to recovery lies in making government smaller instead of making it bigger. To help our economy get back to creating jobs, the job-killing economic uncertainty afflicting small businesses has to be eliminated. The “stimulus” spending spree in Washington has to end. And Congress itself has to be reformed. To help our economy create jobs, we need to stop all of the coming tax hikes, cut spending, and begin a drive for smaller, less costly government — and to do this, we need to change Congress itself. The president keeps asking for new ideas. Well, this is a new idea, and it’s a pretty big one. And by the way, where’s the “new” in more stimulus spending, more taxes, and more regulation?

Lopez: What are you most excited about in the agenda? What’s most important in it?

Rep. Boehner: The American people just reject the notion that we can just simply tax, borrow, and spend our way to prosperity. And in my view, one of the most exciting things about the Pledge to America is that for Americans who are concerned about the economy, it offers a new way forward that hasn’t been tried in Washington. It’s an approach focused on cutting spending instead of increasing spending, and eliminating uncertainty for the private-sector innovators and entrepreneurs who create jobs in this country. And it also acknowledges that if we’re going to be successful in reining in spending and reducing the size of government, we have to change the way Congress itself works. As Kevin McCarthy often says, structure dictates behavior. Right now all the rules and structures are rigged in favor of increased spending and minimal public scrutiny. We need to reverse that. Having a Congress that’s basically pre-programmed to spend money and prevent spending cuts is part of the reason we’re in the mess we’re in. 


Sign up for free NRO e-mails today:

NRO Polls on LockerDome

Subscribe to National Review