Boehner Cool and Collected as GOP Primary Battle Drags On

(Image Credit: Susan Walsh/AP Photo)

Following Mitt Romney's victory in Florida Tuesday night, and three other GOP contenders vowing to stay in the race for the White House, House Speaker John Boehner, the top elected Republican in the United States, downplayed any impression or suggestion of intraparty anxiety over a prolonged fight for the Republican nomination for president.

"I understand that people are concerned about how long the primary process is dragging out," Boehner, R-Ohio, said after a meeting with the House Republican Conference this morning. "I would remind people that President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had a fight that went through June  2008, so I think everybody just needs to relax and this will resolve itself."

The speaker, who is second in the line of presidential succession, said   he's "got a big job" to focus on in the Capitol and the voters could make their own selection for the party's nominee.

"I've not involved myself in this presidential primary race," Boehner said. "Those who choose to show up and vote in the Republican primaries are going make their decision."

Instead, Boehner took aim at President Obama, telling reporters that "the president's economic policies have failed to improve our economy, and in fact, they've made them worse."

Moments later House Majority Leader Eric Cantor piled on the criticism, urging the president to adopt more of the GOP's ideas.

"In everyday life when something doesn't work, most people stop doing it and try something new," Cantor, R-Va., said. "We know that the president's policies have not helped this economy get back on strong footing. We know they're not working, his policies of stimulus and the radical takeover of health care and the incurrence of more debt. These are not working to help get people back to work in this country."

Yesterday, Rep. John Mica, the chairman of the House committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, introduced the American Infrastructure and Energy Jobs Act. Boehner said the bill "will reform the way we build highways and rebuild highways" and he hopes to have the measure on the House floor in the coming weeks.

Boehner pointed out that President Obama called for an all-of-the-above energy strategy during his State of the Union address, and he explained the GOP's legislation would create new revenues to help fund repairs to the country's roads and bridges by opening up the Inner Mountain West and the Outer Continental Shelf to energy exploration.

"House Republicans this week continue our focus on getting our economy moving again," Boehner said. "This is all part of our plan for American job creators. We passed 30 bills. 27 of them are still sitting in the United States Senate. It's time for the Senate to act and allow the American people the chance to get back to work."

Tuesday, the president announced a new agenda intended to strengthen small business by expanding tax relief and unlocking capital for startups. Cantor sarcastically welcomed the news and said that Republicans are "very excited" and hopeful to get something done.

"The White House now says that perhaps we should focus on small business. Well thank you, Mr. President," Cantor exclaimed incredulously. "We want you to help us do something for the backbone of this country, which are the American small businesses. Some of the things that the White House mentioned are the things that we've been talking up for over a year now. Like business expensing, like helping business start-ups, like trying to address the visa cap issue for foreign workers. All of these are in our plan for America's Job Creators. All of these things we've been asking the president to join us to help small businesses."

With President Obama in Fall Church, Va., this morning to announce a new program to help struggling homeowners, the speaker prodded the president for making yet another attempt to solve an enduring challenge that has plagued his administration.

"One more time? How many times have we done this?" Boehner asked. "We've done this at least four times where there's some new government program to help homeowners who have trouble with their mortgages. None of these programs have worked and I don't know why anyone would think that this next idea is going to work."

Still, Boehner would not dismiss the effort outright. He said he's "always open to working with the president."

"We both have a job to do," Boehner said. "If it makes economic sense, if it's fiscally responsible, certainly I'll take a look at it."