Rep. John Boehner Says 'Partisanship Got Worse' Under Pelosi

GOP leader says Obama offered Republicans only "perfunctory meetings."

November 4, 2010, 12:30 PM

WASHINGTON Nov. 4, 2010 — -- Republican House Minority Leader John Boehner said today that one legacy of Democrat Nancy Pelosi's tenure as Speaker of the House is deeper discord and even less cooperation between the political parties.

"I think it's too early to predict what it [history] will say, other than the partisanship got worse, not better," Boehner said in an interview with ABC News' Diane Sawyer.

Two days after Republicans reclaimed a House majority and set an end to Pelosi's historic run as the first woman speaker, Boehner suggested that he could be more effective in bridging the divide.

"The place is broken," Boehner said of the House. "I've watched both parties contribute to the building up the scar tissue... And I want an opportunity to heal the House and restore the institution of the Congress for the American people, because if we're serious about taking on the big challenges that face our country, I think it's important that we have a healthy institution where parties really can work together, where people can work together across the aisle."

Watch Diane Sawyer's the exclusive interview with Rep. John Boehner tonight on "World News."

But history has shown that will be much easier said than done.

Pelosi made a similar pledge when she accepted the speaker's gavel in 2007, saying she would reach across the aisle to Boehner and Republicans.

"In this House, we may belong to different parties, but we serve one country," she said in her inaugural address. "My colleagues elected me to be Speaker of the House -- the entire House. Respectful of the vision of our Founders, the expectations of our people, and the great challenges that we face, we have an obligation to reach beyond partisanship to work for all Americans."

Four years later, many regard the bitter partisanship in political rhetoric and in the legislative process as unprecedented.

President Obama has also made gestures to end the bickering, most recently in his State of the Union address in January when he announced he would hold monthly meetings with Republican leaders. But even those became stalemated and the administration stopped scheduling them.

"There were a couple of perfunctory meetings along the way where he invited us down and asked for our ideas," Boehner told Sawyer. "But there really hasn't been the opportunity to spend any time together."

Whether Democrats, now a minority in the House, will be eager to forgive and forget the sharp criticism they've weathered from Republicans remains unclear.

Republicans have long accused Pelosi and Democrats of shutting them out of the legislative process with "one-party rule" and decried the Speaker's thumb-in-the-eye style of politics, exemplified by her occasional disregard for bipartisanship, notably with passage of health care reform, which passed without a single Republican vote.

Boehner, who is expected to become the next Speaker of the House when Republicans hold their party leadership elections in two weeks, said his plan is simple.

"I'm a regular guy with a big job. And I didn't come to Washington because I wanted to be a Congressman. I came here to do something," he told Sawyer. "I want to cut spending, create jobs, repeal health care, and fix the institution of the Congress itself."

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