Speaker Boehner Doesn’t Get ‘Stressed’ Over His Dead-End Legislation

December 14, 2011 5:51 pm ET — Julia Krieger

When Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) sat down this morning for a breakfast interview with Politico's Mike Allen, he shared a bit of his leadership philosophy. "The good part about being me," he told Allen, "is that, you know, I don't do stress." Reflecting on his first year as Speaker of the House, Boehner asserted, "you can't force an outcome."

Boehner's take-no-ownership style pervaded the conversation and is indicative of his dismissive attitude toward legislating.

ALLEN: You said for better or for worse, you're 'going to be me,' and that sometimes makes your staff nervous. What's the good and the bad of being you?

BOEHNER: Well, I don't know — the good part about being me is that, you know, I don't do stress. You know, I did that — I did that a long time ago. I just don't do it. I get up every day and give it my best. I'll work hard, I'll work longer than anybody else. But at the end of all that, you can't force an outcome, especially in this process.


Boehner's 'no stress' approach to leading the House of Representatives during trying economic times is apparent in his paltry legislative record rife with bills that are dead-on-arrival in the Senate. Boehner has no qualms dangling pretend jobs bills in front of the American people over and over, because passing inviable partisan bills makes for better campaign fodder than actual policy. Besides, sabotaging your opponent is easier than attempting to control your caucus.

A great example is the payroll tax cut extension passed by the House yesterday, which included a number of highly partisan add-ons. Despite the fact that that one of Boehner's Republican colleagues in the Senate, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), admitted "the pipeline is probably not going to sell," and even though the president had already threatened to veto any payroll tax legislation tied to the Keystone pipeline, Boehner washed his hands of responsibility. After the payroll tax bill included Keystone provisions passed, Boehner said: "The Senate will have to do whatever they have to do."

When the Politico discussion turned to pressing business like the payroll tax, Boehner defended his actions by toeing the party line, citing debunked jobs numbers tied to Keystone pipeline legislation. Pointing his finger at the other guy, he insisted, "It's time for the Senate to act."

Perhaps the best snapshot of his abdication of leadership was his explanation of what he deems his "biggest regret of the year": His failure to reach a grand bargain with the president to lift the debt ceiling. Despite Boehner's own rejection of President Obama's offers to make historic cuts, Boehner insisted that the president was the inflexible one, saying, "I could never get the president to the point where he would say yes."

ALLEN: Now, it's fine to regret it. But is there something you would have changed, or do you wish you had pushed harder with your own people to get the $4 trillion grand bargain?

BOEHNER: Whoa, whoa, whoa. We don't have any issue with my people. We never got that far. The president would never say yes to serious entitlement reform. That was where this really broke down. Yes, he wanted more revenue.

ALLEN: Which your people would not go for.

BOEHNER: We never got that far. I told the president right up front when he wanted revenue on the table. I said, Mr. President, I'll put revenue on the table, but only if you're willing to make serious changes in our entitlement program. Serious reductions in spending. And unfortunately, I could never get the president to the point where he would say yes.

Boehner concluded:  "I regret that we didn't come to an agreement. But you know, you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink it." Ain't that the truth.