Maybe it was because he was fielding questions from the ‘alligators’ for the last time in five weeks. Or maybe it was because he was proud one of his constituents had just won the first Olympic gold medal in judo for Team U.S.A.
Whatever it was, one thing was apparent at today’s Capitol Hill news conference: House Speaker John Boehner is heading into a five-week recess with a little kick in his step, and maybe even a little momentum.
“Alligator feeding time. That’s right,” Boehner, R-Ohio, joked about the Capitol press corps as he approached the podium. “The goal here is to feed the alligators without getting bit.”
Emphasizing that the House is the only player in the nation’s capital that has addressed a looming tax hike and across-the-board spending cuts due at the end of the year, the speaker assessed the political landscape heading into a critical stretch of campaigning and fundraising.
“Washington Democrats are scared. They’re hiding, desperately hoping to get through the fall election without anyone noticing that when it comes [to] Americans’ future, they have no plan,” Boehner said. “Republicans have been advancing real solutions on behalf of the American people, and we’re only ones who have addressed the tax hikes that threaten our economy and the defense cuts that threaten our national security. I think the American people, mark my words, are paying attention, and I think they’ll remember.”
Months ago, the speaker said that he believed Republicans had a one-in-three chance of losing majority control of the House. But today, Boehner was more bullish.
“I’m feeling better,” he said of his party’s prospects this fall. “Our team’s in pretty good shape. Our members have worked hard. Frankly…our candidates and challengers…have been through tough primaries, and I feel good about where we are as a team. We’ve got a lot of work to do between now and November, but our team’s doing well.”
After striking a deal with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on a six-month continuing resolution earlier this week, Republicans have sidelined a potentially-damaging battle – the threat of a government shutdown – until after the election.
Still, Democrats are counting all of the measures the House has failed to come to terms on with the Senate, like a farm bill, postal reform, or the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act – not the mention an agreement on the problems that shape the Fiscal Cliff.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi told reporters today that “if you ever want to know what is the central focus of the special interest in Washington, D.C., you need only look at the proposals of the Republican Party.”
“You have to give the Republicans credit. They’re very clear about their agenda,” Pelosi, D-Calif., said. “When they talk about tax cuts for the rich, they talk about rewarding success. What they don’t talk about is the tax increase for the middle class, which is devastating to our country. The middle class…is the backbone of our democracy. Tax cuts for the middle class are spent. They inject demand into the economy. They create jobs.”
Pelosi took issue with the GOP’s claim that allowing the tax cuts for the country’s wealthiest taxpayers would cost the economy 700,000 jobs.
“The evidence of our own experience in the Bush years indicates what the tax cuts at the high end do. They increase the deficit. They do not create jobs,” Pelosi said. “We did this in the Bush years. It didn’t work. It produced record unemployment.”
“Now they’re saying perhaps we shall all engage in the luxury of amnesia. Let’s forget all of that, and let’s do it again, because our friends, they need these tax cuts, and that’s just not right,” she continued. “I know that the handmaidens of the millionaires think that that’s the only way, trickle-down. Well, I don’t know what’s trickling down, but it’s not a pleasant experience for the middle class.”