House Speaker John Boehner said today that he found it painful to be described as "spineless or a squish," but said the worst comments about him was that he was "the establishment."
Boehner's comments came during a news conference where he was touting his conservative credentials and rebutting criticism from the right that he has become too willing to work with President Obama.
Boehner, R-Ohio, at first tried to empathize with frustrations of Americans when he was asked about conservative broadcasters like Mark Levin and Sean Hannity and a small cadre of his conservative colleagues working to dethrone him from the speakership.
“The American people are very frustrated. They’re frustrated in a struggling economy, they’re frustrated that they don’t think Washington’s listening, and they want action. I talk to Americans every day, talk to my constituents every day and this frustration that’s out there, they need to take it out on somebody. They can take it out on the president, take it out on me – and it comes with the territory.”
Boehner was prodded in a follow-up question to recall his conservative voting record.
“During my years here when I voted, I had the eighth-most conservative voting record in the Congress,” Boehner said. “It does pain me to be described as spineless or a squish, and I’ll tell you what pains me the most is when they describe me as the establishment.”
“Now, I’m the most anti-establishment speaker we’ve ever had. You know, who was the guy who got rid of earmarks? Me!” Boehner said. “Who’s the guy who believes in regular order? Me. Who believes in allowing more members to participate in the process from both sides of the aisle? Me!”
Boehner told reporters: “I’m pretty comfortable in my own skin,” adding a pledge that he would prove his value over the next two years.
“I’m going to do my best to show all of our members – Democrats and Republicans and those members who voted against me -- that I’m up to the job that I was given,” he said.
Asked about the pressure to retaliate against the 25 House Republicans who opposed him for speaker, Boehner said the “family conversation” is ongoing.
“My focus is on the American people's priorities,” Boehner said. “We’ve got an economy that’s improving a bit, but most Americans aren’t seeing it. And so we’re going to stay focused on the American people’s priorities. This family conversation will continue and we’ll come to some resolution in the days and weeks ahead.”
That conversation is likely to be among the topics discussed at the Joint House and Senate Republican retreat in Hershey, Pennsylvania, Jan. 15-16.