April 9, 2006 -- In an exclusive interview on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," newly minted House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, defended the Republican agenda, but acknowledged, "We've had a rough year, there's no question about it."
Boehner predicted Republican victories in the November midterm elections but admitted turmoil in Iraq, the response to Hurricane Katrina, and the fall of his predecessor, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, have made for a difficult beginning to the election year.
The Ohio Republican asserted, "Tom DeLay's troubles have cast a shadow, there's no doubt about it."
DeLay, known affectionately as "The Hammer" in the halls of Congress, relinquished his party post as majority leader when indicted by Texas grand jury last September, but pledged to quickly resume his leadership duties. But the former exterminator never returned as majority leader and instead, in the wake of a second staffer's guilty plea in the growing Abramoff lobbying scandal, resigned from Congress entirely last week.
Boehner, who stunned Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., DeLay's temporary replacement, in Republican leadership elections earlier this year, defended their majority, insisting, "We have an agenda," highlighting fiscal responsibility, a push for affordable health care, tax cuts and efforts on border security. Of the Democrats, Boehner, contrasted, "[They have] nothing. … They have no agenda other than to stop us."
Boehner dismissed criticism implying that House Republicans failed to pass a budget before departing for the Easter recess. Boehner had stated that if the House didn't pass a budget prior to this recess, one wasn't worth passing. But speaking with Stephanopoulos, the House's second-ranking Republican backed down from that assessment saying, "I was trying to put pressure on my colleagues to get our work done this week; it didn't work."
Boehner staunchly defended the House border security bill, which does not favor a guest worker program. Rep. Boehner insisted, "Illegal immigrants are just that, illegal," and said of the Senate's bill that includes a three-tiered categorization of immigrants, "I think that that sounds too much like amnesty to most Americans."
Blaming Senate Democrats for the impasse, Boehner called upon the upper chamber to pass a bill and send the issue to conference between both the House and Senate.
Boehner rejected claims that the situation in Iraq has soured, arguing, "I really do believe, George … beyond a few hot spots, the situation in Iraq is improving."
Acknowledging the need to continue the debate, the majority leader continued, "It's in a handful of places that are still under attack by insurgents."
When asked about the revelation that President Bush may have authorized the declassification of intelligence which led to the unmasking of an undercover CIA agent, Boehner demurred: "I'm not aware of the facts here. … The facts are in the hands of the prosecutors."