Sunday, February 05, 2006

Boehner Bombs In His Debut As Majority Leader

Newly- elected House Majority Leader John Boehner promised lobbying reforms, but he is already running backwards before he leaves the starting gates. House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Rep. David Dreier proposed ending lobbyist-paid travel as part of a lobbying reform package, which also barred former members who now lobby from having access to the House floor and the House gym. Boehner now says he is against banning lobbbyist-paid travel.

In a slap at Hastert's and Dreier's reform efforts, the Washington Post reports that they are now pulling back from their initial proposal: "'This is something we refer to as a false start,'" a senior aide said, acknowledging that Hastert and other leaders had backed the Republicans into a no-win situation. The leaders can either push forward with a plan most Republicans oppose, or they can scrap it and read that they backed off the toughest reform proposals."

In his debut performance on the Sunday morning talk shows, Boehner totally bombed. NBC Meet The Press host Tim Russert pointed out that Boehner had taken lobbyist-paid travel in excess of $157,000 in recent years to such places as Boca Raton, Florida, Edinburgh, Scotland and Monterrey, California, all popular golfing destinations. Boehner insisted the golfing had nothing to do with it; rather, that is where the sponsoring groups chose to hold their meetings.

Fox News Sunday host, Chris Wallace, asked Boehner how he manages to maintain a permanent tan year-round and if it was because he spent so much time on the golf course. He also asked him about a New York Times description of him:

Easygoing and well liked, with a perpetual tan, a low golf handicap and an ever-present Barclay cigarette between his fingers, Mr. Boehner, 56, looks like a throwback to the 1950's--Dean Martin comes to Congress.

Russert also confronted Boehner with the words of Indiana's Rep. Mark Souder in nominating Rep. John Shadegg for the position Boehner won. Sounder said, "Duke Cunningham, Jack Abramoff, and the ongoing and disgusting saga of abuse of power and public trust are not just made up by the Democrats." Boehner was not moved.

Instead of banning lobbyist-paid travel, Boehner wants members to be required to obtain advance approval from the House Ethics Committee, which totally misses the mark. Boehner, in defending his own travel, said he already seeks an okay from the committee before accepting any privately-funded trips. He also supports more disclosure of lobbyist expenditures on members.

As to those nasty earmarks, Boehner would like to see less of them but is against eliminating them. He prefers more disclosure, or "more transparency" as he likes to call it, in the budget process so members are more fully educated on what they are voting on.

Boehner also told the Washington Post this weekend that he has no intention of implementing new lobbying rules until he can "reach a broad consensus with House Republicans." Well, then he better enjoy being Majority Leader while it lasts, because it won't last for long.


Buckeye Beauford said...

How do you figure this is "bombing?" What does "banning" earmarks or "private travel?" Do people not trust themselves to be good judges of what lawmakers do or want to do? Boehner is proposing more disclosure and more accountability. Isn't THAT the conservative take? "Banning" something doesn't eliminate the problem, it just hides it from public scrutiny; see the BCFRA.

Anonymous said...

so you favor a top down leadership approach where the party leaders dictate to everyone else what's going to happen? isn't that what gave us the medicare prescription drug benefit?

Gary R. Welsh said...

If the travel is legitimate, it should be paid by the government; otherwise, they can pay for it out of their own pockets like anyone else. These trips for folks like Boehner are nothing more than free vacations. Nobody is going to ever convince me that you accept a trip paid for by a special interest group to a posh golfing resort and that is not going to influence your vote when it comes to matters pertaining to that special interest. The special interest isn't doing it out of the goodness of its heart and the lawmaker knows that. I wouldn't stop with the travel; I would ban any gifts, meals or other gratuities paid for by lobbyists. As to the earmarks--Republicans decried earmarks for decades while they were in the minority and promised to end them as part of their Contract with America. Now they have grown to become a much greater part of the budget than they ever did under the Democrats. If Boehner doesn't understand these fundamental issues and how they are perceived by the public, then he's doomed to failure.

As to the leadership dictating--it is not that at all. The leaders are there to lead. If they cannot make their members understand that these are necessary reforms for the GOP to restore the public's confidence in the Republican-controlled House, then you can be assured they will not control the House after this fall's elections.