Lunch With Boehner - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Lunch With Boehner

House Minority Leader John Boehner spoke to a group of journalists about energy, the state of the Republican Party, and the 2008 elections earlier this afternoon, as part of The American Spectator's Newsmaker series.

Boehner's talk comes after he went on what was billed as an "energy tour" of the United States in a bid to boost American-made energy production. The tour brought him to Alaska, where he learned that energy production could proceed in an environmentally safe manner. But although there is a majority in Congress who would support more domestic production, the Democratic leadership is blocking a vote to avoid putting their members in a tough spot.

During the question and answer session, I asked Boehner to respond to conservative critics who argue that the Republican Party still hasn't learned its lesson from 2006, and that it's still addicted to earmarks and wasteful spending.

"What I've tried to do over the last 18 months is to rebuild our team. Rebuild our team on Republican principles. And if you look at what we've done to stand up to wasteful spending, whether it was the supplemental last year or the supplemental this year, the end of the year fight on the omnibus spending bill, we worked closely with our Senate colleagues and the White House and held the line on spending."

He also noted supporting Gen. Petraeus and the surge strategy, and blocking the expansion of S-CHIP.

I followed up by asking why, if his main focus is on rebuilding the team, Rep. Jeff Flake, who is one of the leading opponents of earmarks in Congress, was denied a slot on the Appropriations Committee when one opened up early this year.

"The steering committee decided that another member was more qualified for the job," Boehner responded. "The steering committee made that decision. A lot of people think I control the steering committee. I wish I did, but I don't."

Michael Barone asked Boehner about the prospects for Republicans in the fall elections, and Boehner said that he thought House Republicans would do better than expected, and that John McCain would do better than expected. In response to another question, he said that he expected Republicans would do well in 23 or 24 of the roughly 30 seats being vacated by retiring Republicans, but he said he wouldn't deny that a few would be "tough."

Jim Antle asked followed up by asked what the overall strategy was for retaking Congress or at least mitigating losses. Boehner said that because it is a presidential election year, there were no plans to nationalize the Congressional elections, but instead, they are encouraging each candidates to tailor their message to their own districts. He also said that Republicans are on the right side of the energy issue.

UPDATE: Dave Weigel has more.

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