Boehner I’ve never supported a tax increase of any kind.
NJ Will you extend into the 111th Congress the current House GOP moratorium on earmarks? Related to that, if you win the majority, will you seek any change to the Appropriations Committee’s professional staff or other reforms to signal that, in your words, “business as usual” is over when it comes to discretionary spending?
Boehner Look, I’ve always had a "no earmarks" policy. I helped get the conference into a place where we have the current moratorium. And I think it’s perfectly clear that going back to "business as usual" is not an option. That’s the case with earmarking specifically, and with spending in general. Change is never easy, but change is necessary. It’s what the American people are demanding of us.
NJ You’ve said you are open to having spending-cut legislation come to the House floor each week or, at minimum, regularly. How do you intend for this to work?
Boehner Well, I think a model for that particular proposal may be the "YouCut" project that Eric and the other members of our economic recovery solutions group have been doing all year. They’ve got a ton of specific cuts, chosen by the American people in an online poll. I also said in my speech in September at AEI that I think we need to look at breaking up all these massive spending bills–break them into smaller bills that are more conducive to scrutiny and debate. We said in the pledge that we need to set up a process that makes it easier to cut spending. In my mind that means, among other things, if a member has an amendment that would cut spending, it should get a vote. Period.
NJ Will House Republicans, should they win the majority, move the pending free-trade agreements with South Korea, Panama, and Colombia to the floor in the first six months of the 111th Congress?
Boehner I believe we need to boost our exports to create American jobs. I think these should be done as soon as possible. But let’s be clear: The holdup isn’t among House Republicans. The president needs to show leadership on this issue and make it a priority if it’s going to happen.
NJ Will Republicans back President Obama’s surge in Afghanistan? And will it require as part of the appropriations process greater clarity and perhaps even assurances that the July 2011 troop withdrawal deadline will be softened or withdrawn?
Boehner We will make sure our troops in the field have the tools they need. I don’t want to look too far ahead other than that.
NJ House Democrats left Washington frustrated with the inability to move their bills. How do you intend to work with GOP leader Mitch McConnell to move your House bills; … related to this, how would you contrast your relationship with McConnell with former Speaker [Newt] Gingrich’s relationship with Sen. Bob Dole?
Boehner Oh, I don’t really want to get into comparisons, but Mitch and I–and our staffs–have a terrific working relationship. One of the reasons for that is that neither of us is interested in running for president. We’re right where we want to be.
NJ It was not a priority of the Contract with America Congress to make its agenda match or compliment the campaign message of the 1996 GOP presidential nominee. How much will you and McConnell attempt to match your agenda with the message of the eventual GOP 2012 nominee, whoever it might be?
Boehner Well, that’s a ways down the line. And it will obviously depend on who the nominee is.
NJ How much longer do you envision staying in Congress and, related to that, did you learn anything valuable from the speakership of Nancy Pelosi?
Boehner Hell, I’ve already stayed here a lot longer than I ever thought I would. We’ll see. I think the current majority has reinforced what I already knew: You can’t run this place, at least not well, by shutting out the American people, shutting out the other party, and even shutting out your own members. You can twist arms and crack heads and cut deals for a while, but it just won’t work in the long term. Let me add, though, that while we obviously have much different views of the world, I have no ill will toward the speaker. She and her staff have been gracious and professional when it comes to our direct dealings. Our differences are significant, but they’re philosophical and operational differences, not personal.
NJ If elected speaker, will you return smoking privileges to the speaker’s lobby?