With crunch time approaching for the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to agree on a proposal to cut $1.5 trillion from the federal deficit, House Speaker John Boehner today called on members of the so-called super committee to work toward finding common ground and to resist allowing partisan differences to bring the committee to a stalemate.
“Nobody thought the committee’s job will be easy, and it hasn’t been,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said. “No one is surprised by that, but I have high hopes that in the weeks ahead, this panel will find common ground.”
Boehner said the two co-chairs of the committee, Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., “couldn’t be more different ideologically,” and conceded that neither should compromise on his or her principles, But, he said, “they share a commitment to finding solutions, finding those ‘areas of overlap’ between the parties, and getting them done.
“The danger is that these areas of overlap on job creation will become pawns in a political game, held hostage to a broader debate while the two parties spar in the clash of philosophies,” Boehner warned. “There’s too much we agree on to allow that to happen. We owe it to you - the young Americans who’ll be entering the work force at the end of this school year - to get this stuff done.”
Boehner encouraged the committee to hone in on working to reform entitlements such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid in order to meet the committee’s mandate to drop $1.5 trillion from the deficit in the next decade.
“Everyone knows we can’t solve the debt crisis without making structural changes to our entitlement programs. You know it. I know it. President Obama knows it,” Boehner said. “If we don’t make those changes, the programs won’t be there for your generation when you need them. Everyone understands this, and the fact of the matter is, strengthening these programs will be good for our economy. Nothing – nothing – would send a more reassuring message to the markets than taking bipartisan steps to fix the structural problems in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.”
Explaining that common ground is not analogous to compromise, the speaker called on Democrats and Republicans to come together on areas of agreement without violating the principles that brought them to elected office.
“Common ground doesn’t mean compromising on your principles. Common ground means finding the places where your agenda overlaps with that of the other party, locking arms, and getting it done, without violating your principles,” Boehner said. “The jobs crisis in America today demands that we seek common ground, and act on it where it’s found.”
With the House in a pro-forma session today, Boehner was in Louisville speaking as part of a fall lecture series at the University of Louisville’s McConnell Center for political science students, at the invitation of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Despite calling for actions to improve the economy now, Boehner predicted, it will probably take a change of power in the White House before changes are made to heal the economy.
“Until we get away from a government that is constantly meddling, manipulating and micromanaging our economy, we won’t see lasting job growth in our country,” Boehner said. “I realize Barack Obama and Joe Biden are probably never going to agree with that statement. It’s probably going to take a different administration to do the things I think are truly needed to turn our economy around.”
Still, Boehner said the prospect of a presidential election coming down the road should not prevent both political parties from working together now.
“While our differences are many, there are real areas of overlap between the two parties on solutions that can make a difference in the jobs crisis our country faces,” Boehner said, citing multiple bills that have passed the House of Representatives but have not been voted on in the Senate. “If there are differences, let’s work through them. There’s no reason we can’t get it done.
“I didn’t take this job to preside over a partisan screaming match. I took this job to be the speaker of the whole House, to listen to the people who truly hold the power in this country, listen to their priorities, and get stuff done,” Boehner continued. “My message to you today is simple: aith in government has never been high, but it doesn’t have to be this low. The American people need to see that despite our differences, we can get things done.”
Boehner was introduced by McConnell, who hailed the speaker as “my friend and partner in the trenches of Capitol Hill.”
“This is a moment of great challenges for our country,” McConnell said. “But history has a way of giving America the leaders it needs in such moments, and Speaker Boehner is one of those leaders.”
McConnell drew a parallel between one of his personal heroes, “the great Kentuckian, Henry Clay” who, like Speaker Boehner, “shaped the speaker’s office more than anyone before him, and used the office to establish the House of Representatives as the body closest to the people and the clearest instrument of their will.”
“By his leadership, John embodies that same spirit of democracy today. He leads a new House of Representatives that he pledged would reflect the will of the people, focused and determined to put our nation’s broken fiscal house back in order,” McConnell, R-Kentucky, said. “In the 10 months he’s been at the helm, John’s made good on that promise. For the 112th Congress, the right man has met his moment.”