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Congress / politics

Barkeep Boehner

The proper analogy isn't good cop; it's a job that's half sympathetic ear and half supervisor of an unruly group of people.

US House Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill. In an interview last night he said his childhood working in a bar has prepared him to lead the House.(Alex Wong/Getty Images)

photo of Ben Terris
November 5, 2010

Presumed Speaker-to-be John Boehner reiterated his commitment to extending the Bush tax cuts for everyone and trying to repeal the health care bill to ABC’s Diane Sawyer Thursday night, but did so while also distancing himself from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s insistence that the GOP’s first priority is making Barack Obama a one-term president.

It’s a strategy that has led some to call Boehner the “good cop” to McConnell’s “bad cop.” But after last night’s interview, people might start thinking of Boehner as more of a bartender: part sympathetic ear for Americans affected by a bad economy and part supervisor of an unruly group of people (in his case, a new class of representatives with disparate beliefs and political resumes). It’s a job that he’s been preparing for since he was a kid working for his dad.

“You grow up around a bar like I did, mopping floors and doing dishes, waiting tables, tendin' bar, you learn to deal with every character that walks in the door,” he told Sawyer.

 

It is with this mentality that Boehner will begin his job as Speaker, planning he says, on working in an agreeable manner with Obama. When asked how he felt about McConnell’s statements (first told to National Journal and then reiterated in a speech on Thursday) that the first priority of the GOP should be to keep the president from being reelected, Boehner said he didn’t agree.

“That's Sen. McConnell's statement, and his opinion,” Boehner said. “I think the American people want us to focus on their message during the election. Stop the spending. Get rid of the uncertainty. Let's get around to creating jobs again. And staying focused on what the American people want us to focus on is my No. 1 priority.”

One of the first things he hopes to do for the American people is keep all their taxes from going up, and in a permanent fashion. To Boehner, news that Robert Gibbs said Obama would be willing to compromise by allowing top-earners a one- or two-year extension of the Bush tax cuts did not go far enough.

"I don't think that eliminates the uncertainty that's preventing employers from hiring," he told Saywer.

But even as he maintained his commitment to extending the Bush tax cuts for all Americans, he would not rule out compromise altogether.

“We're getting into what could be or not be,” he said when pressed on the issue by Sawyer. “It's too early for all that.”

But he did speak confidently about his ability to get enough votes to repeal the health care bill. When Sawyer asked if there really was a mandate from the American people for changing the bill (she pointed out the country was equally divided on the issue), Boehner conceded that a mandate might be too strong a word, but sometimes maybe Congress does know best.

"I don't know if I would call it a mandate -- but I believe -- that Obamacare will ruin the best health care system in the world," he said. "And I believe it'll bankrupt our country. And I believe many of my colleagues and new colleagues believe the same."

Boehner said he expects to surely disagree with the president about a lot of policy questions, but they would at least get along on a personal level. Perhaps Boehner really is the old bar hand. After all, what he said he really wants is something that all barkeeps want.

“I don’t want squabbling,” he said.

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