House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, talked about his hopes for President Obama’s address to a joint session of Congress tonight, saying he would listen for “where there’s common ground” in order to improve the economy and create jobs, and he resisted insinuations that Republicans have antagonistically worked to derail the importance of the president’s speech.
Asked whether he believes he could find common ground with Obama on any of the proposals the president is expected to announce, such as infrastructure spending and extending payroll tax cuts and unemployment insurance, Boehner said he did not want to get ahead of the president’s address.
“It’s important for us to wait and listen to what the president has to outline,” Boehner said. “We know that the two parties aren’t going to agree on everything, but the American people want us to find common ground, and I’ll be looking for it.”
“I’m hopeful that after the president gives his speech that we’ll be able to sit down in a bipartisan way and find common ground that will help improve our economy and improve the job picture for the American people,” he added.
But with a number of awkward clashes between Republicans and the White House, some political observers have suggested the GOP is painting the president’s address as just another speech with stale ideas.
Additionally, a number of Republicans, such as Reps. Joe Walsh of Illinois and Paul Broun of Georgia, have announced they will not attend tonight’s address and would instead hold town hall events with constituents and on Twitter.
But Boehner said he has encouraged House Republicans to be present and listen to the president, although he pointed out that he does not have the power to force anyone to attend.
“He is the president of the United States, and I believe that all members ought to be here to do this. That doesn’t mean they’re going to. Remember, I’m just the speaker,” Boehner said. “I’ve got 434 colleagues who have their own opinions, and they’re entitled to them. But as an institution, the president’s coming at our invitation. We ought to be respectful, we ought to welcome him.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., doubled-down Wednesday evening on her belief that by not designating an official responder to the address, the GOP is being “disrespectful” to the president.
“It’s unfortunate that the Republican leadership has decided that they’re not going to honor the president’s remarks with a response,” Pelosi said. “It’s indicative of people who spent nearly 250 days in the majority, and have not produced – passed one piece of legislation into law which creates one job. Their silence on the president’s proposals speaks volumes about their lack of commitment to job creation in our country.”
Asked about his rival’s comments, Boehner emphasized that Republicans are free to set up their own interviews and joked that Americans would probably rather watch the NFL’s season opener between the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints.
“This is not a State of the Union address. The American people shouldn’t be forced to watch some politician they don’t want to listen to, and frankly most of them would rather watch the football game,” Boehner said. “We have opened up Statuary Hall so that all of our members can respond individually, and I think it’s a more appropriate and respectful way to go forward.”
Boehner, who is a Cincinnati Bengals fan, ignored a question about who he believed would win tonight’s game.
The speaker said that Republicans have answered the American people’s request to focus on the economy and jobs by passing more than a dozen bills through the House that would roll back unnecessary regulations that are strangling America’s economy.
Boehner has invited 12 employers from around the country, who he says have ”real world experience about how the regulations that are coming out of this administration are impeding their ability to grow their business and to create jobs, “to sit in his box in the House chamber.
One such guest, Gibson Guitars CEO Henry Juszkiewicz, whose business was the target of a federal raid late last month in Nashville, has raised some eyebrows around Washington.
Last month, the Nashville-based company was targeted by federal officials for allegedly importing ebony from India that the Justice Department says was “fraudulently” labeled to evade Indian export laws. The Justice Department says the mislabeling constituted violation of a 2008 law requiring companies to detail information about wood they import, and to abide by the relevant laws of foreign nations.
Asked whether Juszkiewicz’s attendance sends the wrong signal to the president, Boehner said his guests “put a real face on how these regulations impact these businesses specifically.
“All year we’ve been focused on the regulatory onslaught that’s coming out of the administration. There are hundreds and hundreds of regulations that are going to cost hundreds of billions of dollars,” Boehner said. “It raises the cost of doing business in the United States, makes it more difficult for employers to expand their business, and in many cases forcing employers to relocate their facilities overseas, denying Americans the opportunity to have those jobs.”