Speaker Boehner Swears Off "Compromising"... Again

November 01, 2011 9:19 am ET — Matt Finkelstein

Rep. John Boehner

In a speech yesterday at the University of Louisville, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) told students in attendance that Congress has an obligation to overcome the partisan "clash of philosophies" and take action to improve the economy. "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," he said.

In the same speech, however, Boehner made the case that conservative Republicans should never agree to any policy that does not conform 100 percent to their ideological principles:

"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." [...]

"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: faith 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."

So Boehner wants to find common ground with Democrats — just so long as that ground is in Republican territory. In fact, there is plenty of common ground between the parties that Boehner chooses to ignore because it does not fit neatly with the Republican Party's purist conservative agenda.

For instance, Boehner agreed with President Obama that the debt ceiling had to be raised to avoid a "financial disaster," but he refused to do so until Democrats accepted major spending cuts that many of them did not support. GOP Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) agrees that infrastructure spending "does create jobs," but he will not support it because it does not address "uncertainty" about taxes and regulations. And, presumably, most Republicans did not want to end the Bush tax cuts for the middle class, but they refused to extend them until the president agreed to preserve massive tax cuts for the wealthy.

The president and his party have made significant concessions in order to 'get stuff done.' Unfortunately, Republicans continue to pretend that "compromise" means never having to agree to anything they don't already like.