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John Boehner

Transportation Nation

Reversing a Radical Rewrite: Can Boehner Go Bipartisan?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Rep. Bill Shuster at bat in congressional baseball game, perhaps pinch hitting for Mica. (House photo)

It’s hard to see clearly through the wreckage of the House transportation bill, but Speaker John Boehner’s actions last week—saying his chamber would work with legislation put forth by the Democratic Senate, “or something like it,” and asking Railroad Subcommittee Chairman Bill Shuster to lead the way—suggest the speaker might actually be looking to win minority votes on a bill he touted as a boon for long-term job growth.

The stunning turnaround came as Boehner at last admitted defeat on the unpopular five-year legislation he and transportation chairman John Mica put forth. Reminiscent of the FAA showdown, which left congressional leadership singed, the current transportation authorization expires March 31st, and has already been extended eight times since its expiration in 2009.

There was plenty not to like in the House bill, which would have paid for transportation in part with a controversial extension of oil and gas drilling and would have exiled transit projects from the highway trust fund, undoing a legacy left by Ronald Reagan. Conservatives complained that the price tag was too high, while moderate metropolitan Republicans chafed at the snub to mass transit funding. U.S. Secretary Ray LaHood, himself a former Republican congressman,  repeatedly trashed the bill as "lousy," "terrible," "the worst bill in decades" and "taking us back to the horse and buggy days."

Even had it passed the House, the Boehner-Mica bill’s severe provisions would have guaranteed a showdown with the Senate, almost surely leading to gridlock and brinkmanship. This just as independent voters are recoiling even further from what they see as congressional dysfunction and party extremism.

In the absence of consensus among Republicans, Boehner’s decision to shelve the bill seems apt. More telling, though, was his move to bench Mica and enlist Shuster. Congressional Quarterly, in initially reporting the decision, painted the hand-off as a rebuke of Mica, presumably for failing to gather and hold Republican support. The speaker’s office insists that wasn’t the intent, however, and indeed an alternate narrative seems plausible: Boehner is trying to reach across the aisle.

Going bipartisan would be so unusual for House Republicans, many activists fear it's a feign or a trap. But if Boenher wanted to use the week long recess to regroup and try to shore up Republican support, he could have easily stuck with Mica, who authored the bill to Boehner’s liking and who has repeatedly bent loyally to the prevailing conservative winds in the House. Instead, the speaker tapped Bill Shuster, a moderate on transportation who hails from Pennsylvania, a half-urban, half-rural state that relies fairly heavily on rail (and which produced the pro-transit Senator Rick Santorum).

Perhaps more importantly, Bill Shuster is a Shuster. His father, Bud Shuster, chaired the House transportation committee from 1995 until he resigned from Congress in 2001—largely because a party policy on term limitations for committee heads forced him to give up his beloved chairmanship. Bill took Bud’s seat in a special election later that year.

During the six-year Shuster chairmanship, as with the six-year reign of Don Young that followed, the task of transportation lawmaking was carried out with great bipartisan comity and, not unrelated, rampant earmarking.  The chairmen got their pork—Young his infamous Alaskan bridges to nowhere and the senior Shuster the irregularly numbered Interstate 99, now the “Bud Shuster Highway”—but so did their colleagues.

The last two long-term surface transportation reauthorizations happened under these men’s watch, and in those votes and several since the players who are today taking center stage showed their colors. When Bud Shuster sponsored TEA-21 in 1998, Mica voted for it, and Boehner voted against it. When Young sponsored SAFETEA-LU in 2005, Mica and Bill Shuster voted for it, and Boehner was one of only nine who voted against it. In 2008, when the new Democratic chairman Jim Oberstar pushed through Amtrak reauthorization, Mica and Bill Shuster voted for that too, and Boehner voted against it.

To his credit, Boehner has been consistent in pining for fundamental changes in transportation funding. In 2005, sore about earmarking in SAFETEA-LU and Ohio’s status as a “donor state” (one that pays more into the Highway Trust fund than it gets back from Washington), he argued that “in a perfect world, the states would keep the taxes they collect and the federal government would only get involved in those projects that are inherently federal.”

By contrast, Mica spoke in favor of SAFETEA-LU’s increased funding, though he wanted more donor/donee equity, then he boasted of the money he brought home. In 2007, after the I-35 bridge collapse, he was thinking big, meeting with President Bush to explain the urgency of a national infrastructure effort. Shortly after, he told the Texas Transportation Summit that the nation’s infrastructure needed dramatic overhaul, even mentioning high speed rail and inland waterways, two sectors that probably weren’t represented in Texas enough for this to be considered pandering.

As we know, Mica’s excitement about high speed rail waned after the 2010 midterm elections made him chairman. He cooperated with his party leadership’s efforts to constrain the budget and defeat President Obama’s infrastructure initiatives. But Bill Shuster hasn’t been quite so loyal. He has parted ways with Boehner and Mica when necessary to support transportation funding, and he has often prevailed. In 2007, Shuster voted against an unsuccessful Republican effort to defund Amtrak by half a billion dollars; the other two voted for it. In 2008, Shuster was the only one of the three to support Oberstar’s National Highway Bridge Reconstruction and Inspection Act, which passed the House 367-55.

Shuster’s rhetoric  has also been maverick -- for a Republican. In 2005, when both Boehner and Mica publicly complained about the federal redistribution of state tax revenues, Shuster actually defended the doner/donee designations, and called out Mica’s home state in the process.

"It has been the wise practice in surface transportation reauthorization to take into account that some regions are saddled with greater needs than others and need a larger rate of return to maintain our national transportation system,” he said on the floor of the House.

Pennsylvania “ranks third in the amount of through truck traffic that neither originates nor terminates in the State. Pennsylvania receives little benefit from such commerce traveling through our State, yet States such as Florida, which is able to get its goods to the large Northeastern markets, benefit, while we still suffer from the constant pounding and damage caused by this through traffic.” Apparently Shuster didn’t get the memo.

Given Shuster’s moderate views and votes, it’s hard to imagine that Boenher would swap Mica for Shuster if the plan was for Republicans to hold their ground and fight. At any rate, Democrats are taking the Pennsylvanian's new prominence as a good sign. Last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had kind, hopeful words for Shuster. “His father I knew very well,” he told The Hill. “If his son is anything like the dad, it will help get this bill done.”

And if the son is shopping legislation that’s a little more like his dad’s, that’ll probably help too.

 

(Hat tip to the essential Project Vote Smart)

Matt Dellinger is the author of the book Interstate 69: The Unfinished History of the Last Great American Highway. You can follow him on Twitter.

 

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It's A Free Blog

Opinion: Boehner Must Battle With His Own 'Party of No'

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Speaker Boehner has signaled support for the payroll tax cut extension, but it doesn't address his problem: whether his own caucus will go along with him

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Transportation Nation

Boehner: Keystone XL to Ride on GOP's Highway Bill

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Truck hauling pipeline pipe in Kansas (photo by Steve Meirowsky via Wikimedia Commons)

House Republicans intend to use their upcoming highway and infrastructure bill to push for approval of the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline, Speaker John Boehner said Sunday.

“If it’s not enacted before we take up the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act, it’ll be part of it,” Boehner said during an interview on ABC's "This Week".

The controversial pipeline has become a political flashpoint between Republicans and Democrats. Republicans demanded an expedited Obama Administration decision on the pipeline's approval as part of a deal temporarily extending payroll tax cuts and unemployment benefits back in December. The administration rejected the approval earlier this month, setting off GOP criticism that President Obama's political allies were preventing a project that could grow jobs.

House and Senate negotiators are now bargaining over a one-year payroll tax extension, and Boehner's statement suggests Republicans are keen to avoid another bruising confrontation with Democrats over the pipeline issue.

“[E]xtending the payroll tax cut that the president has called for, the House has already passed the year-long extension.  We are in a formal conference with the Senate, and I’m confident that we’ll be able to resolve this fairly quickly," Boehner said.

Instead, it appears Keystone may become one of a long list of domestic energy projects Republicans try to promote in their upcoming highway and infrastructure bill. The five-year bill calls for $260 billion in highway funding, financed partially through expansions in domestic energy production. Details of the bill are expected this week, and House Republican aides say they expect it to come to the floor in February.

Follow Todd Zwillich on Twitter @toddzwillich

 

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It's A Free Blog

Opinion: Congress This Year: Like Last Year, Only Worse

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

For all the bad that happened last year, most everything that led to gridlock isn't going anywhere, and in many cases will be worse.

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It's A Free Blog

Opinion: Giving Up on Congress is Obama's Best Decision

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The President saw he had spent too much of 2011 trying to find a sensible seat at John Boehner's Mad Tea Party. Instead, he walked away from their table. It's been the best decision he's made for his re-election prospects.

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It's A Free Country ®

Payroll Tax Standoff Alienates Latino Voters from GOP

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Among the millions who will have less money to survive on are Latinos and other immigrants who are here legally or are naturalized citizens.

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The Takeaway

House Republicans Reject Payroll Tax Deal

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Republicans in the House of Representatives have rejected a deal that would have extended the payroll tax holiday and extended unemployment benefits for millions of Americans. Not passing the bill, which enjoyed overwhelming support from both parties in the Senate and the White House, will cause payroll taxes to go up by about $20 per paycheck for tens of millions of Americans. More than three million people stand to lose their unemployment benefits. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has called on the Senate, which adjourned Saturday, to return to negotiations, though Democrats are refusing to return to negotiations.

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It's A Free Blog

Opinion: Tax Standoff Caps John Boehner's Terrible Year

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Boehner must be realizing now that what keeps his caucus happy is very different than what keeps voters back home happy.

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The Takeaway

Standoff in Congress Over Payroll Tax Extension

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Just a day after an extension of the payroll tax cut passed the Senate by an overwhelming margin, Speaker John Boehner announced that he would not bring the bill to the House floor for a vote immediately. Instead, Boehner says Congress should pass a full-year extension of the payroll tax cut rather than the two-month extension agreed upon by the Senate. The House GOP is expected to vote the bill down Tuesday.

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Transportation Nation

Boehner to Unveil 5-Year Transpo Bill Thursday

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

(Photo (cc) by Flickr user scot63us)

(Washington, D.C) House Republicans will unveil a  five-year transportation and highway bill Thursday that matches Senate Democrats in highway funding levels, according to a member of Congress familiar with the bill.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) plans to roll out the bill Thursday morning and pitch it as a major jobs initiative, countering a charge from President Obama and other Democrats that the GOP won't support direct job creation.

Republicans are likely to draw attention to relatively high funding levels in their bill. It will go up against a Senate alternative funding the Highway Trust Fund at $54 billion over two years. The House version, at five years, will be "longer and at least as big" in terms of highway funding, the lawmaker said.

One thing Boehner likely won't reveal Thursday is how the unexpectedly generous bill will be paid for. And this is guaranteed to be a major sticking point with Democrats. Republicans are dead set against any tax increases, for gasoline or for anything else. While Boehner has pointed to royalties for expanded domestic oil drilling as one funding source, that's unlikely to be a major component. Such royalties yield only $800 million to $1 billion over 10 years, and the Highway Trust Fund is tens of billions short if construction projects stay at anywhere near their present pace.

About $8 billion comes from a spend-down on the $22 billion currently held in the fund. Beyond that, "Boehner won't reveal the final (funding) levels until he reveals the pay-fors," the lawmaker said.

Follow Todd Zwillich on Twitter @toddzwillich

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Transportation Nation

Senate Blocks $60 Billion Infrastructure "Jobs Bill"; GOP Counters

Thursday, November 03, 2011

(Washington, DC)  The Senate blocked a politically-charged $60 billion infrastructure bill Thursday, continuing the partisan stand-off over transportation and jobs.

Meanwhile, House GOP leaders unveiled a major counter-proposal. They’re offering fully funded highway projects in the upcoming transportation authorization with royalties from expanded oil drilling.

The widely-expected result Tuesday came after Senate Democrats failed to break a GOP-led filibuster, blocking the bill from reaching the Senate floor. It also added fuel to President Obama’s election-year claim that Republicans are too bent on partisan politics to cooperate with the White House on job creation.

The bill proposed $50 billion in new spending on transportation infrastructure projects, including highways, transit, Amtrak, high-speed rail, and other categories on Democrats’ wish list. It also included $10 billion in start-up money for a federal infrastructure bank. That proposal has bipartisan support in the Senate but lacks GOP backing in the House.

The bill was paid for with a 0.7% surtax on income over $1 million.

Democrats pushed the bill as a way to pressure Republicans after the defeat of the $447 billion American Jobs Act. Some polls put support for infrastructure spending above 70%.

But Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), the Speaker of the House, accused Democrats of using infrastructure spending to box Republicans in politically. “The Senate this week is voting on another bill that is designed to fail,” he said.

A few hours later Boehner’s office announced it would introduce a new highway funding proposal “in the coming weeks." The bill, expected to be part of a proposed 6-year transportation reauthorization, would make up for expected shortfalls in the Highway Trust Fund with royalties from increased oil drilling.

The move could set up a difficult choice for Democrats: whether to accept expanded fossil fuel drilling, which many oppose, in order to reap the employment benefits of a robustly funded highway bill.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, appeared to reject the idea several weeks ago. “If they're talking about controversial new offshore oil drilling, which is what I think they're doing, that just sets up a huge fight. And that's the last thing you want,” she said.

Also Tuesday, Democrats blocked a Republican-backed alternative bill that funded transportation projects with cuts in other government spending.

Follow Todd Zwillich on Twitter @toddzwillich

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It's A Free Blog

Opinion: Bush and Boehner Rightly Praise Obama on Afghanistan

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Foreign policy is one of those areas of political thought that doesn't neatly fall along the one dimensional red/blue map of the political spectrum in our country.

-Solomon Kleinsmith, It's A Free Country blogger.

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It's A Free Blog

Opinion: GOP More Concerned with Winning than Fixing Economy

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Remember that time Democrats stood in the way of the Republican plan for creating jobs for the American people? When a Democratic minority slowed the already sluggish pace of Washington, killed every proposal that bore a different party affiliation and offered none of their own? Neither do I.

-Justin Krebs, It's A Free Country blogger.

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Transportation Nation

President Delivers Impassioned Pro-Infrastructure Address at "Obsolete" Ohio Bridge

Thursday, September 22, 2011

UPDATED WITH TRANSCRIPT In a speech heavy with both passion and symbolism, President Barack Obama made an impassioned pitch for infrastructure spending, arguing both immediate jobs and the nation's future depend on it.  The President traveled to Cincinnati, Ohio, home of the Brent Spence bridge, connecting Speaker John Boehner's district in Ohio to Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's district in Kentucky.

The President was in full campaign mode as he dropped the final "g"s in his words (as in, I'm askin' you), veered off script, and even let his audience boo his political opponents without shushing them.

"The thing is there are bridges and roads and highways like [the Brent Spence Bridge] throughout the region" the President said. "A major bridge that connects Kentucky and Indiana just closed down for safety reasons.  Another aging bridge that crosses over the Ohio River in Ironton could be replaced right now.  There are rail stations in Cleveland and Toledo in desperate need of repair.  And the same is true in cities and towns all across America.  It makes your commute longer.  It costs our businesses billions of dollars -- they could be moving products faster if they had better transportation routes.  And in some cases, it’s not safe.

Now, we used to have the best infrastructure in the world here in America.  We’re the country that built the Intercontinental Railroad, the Interstate Highway System.  (Applause.)  We built the Hoover Dam.  We built the Grand Central Station.  (Applause.)  So how can we now sit back and let China build the best railroads?  And let Europe build the best highways?  And have Singapore build a nicer airport?  At a time when we've got millions of unemployed construction workers out there just ready to get on the job, ready to do the work to rebuilding America.  (Applause.)"

The full text follows:

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Cincinnati!  (Applause.)

Well, it is good to see all of you.  It is good to be back in Cincinnati.  (Applause.)  I have to say I drove by the Bengals’ practice -- (laughter.)  And I was scouting out some plays in case they play the Bears -- (laughter.)  Did I hear somebody boo the Bears?

AUDIENCE:  Booo!  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  We've got some folks I just want to make sure are acknowledged here today.  First of all, the Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, is in the house.  Give him a round of applause.  (Applause.)  We've got the mayor of the great city of Cincinnati -- Mark Mallory is here.  (Applause.)  We've got the mayor of Covington, Mayor Denny Bowman.  (Applause.)  Senator Rand Paul is here.

AUDIENCE:  Booo --

THE PRESIDENT:  Rand is going to be supporting bridges, so we've got to -- (applause.)  And we've got Congressman John Yarmuth in the house.  (Applause.)

Now, it is good to be back.  I was just in Columbus a little while ago, and I figured I couldn't get away with not giving     Cincinnati a little bit of love.  (Applause.)

I want to thank the good folks at Hilltop Concrete for having us here today.  I especially want to thank Ron for his introduction.

Companies like Hilltop, construction companies, have been hit harder by this economic crisis than almost any other industry in America.  And there are millions of construction workers who are still out there looking for a job.  They're ready to work, but things have been a little tough.  That doesn’t mean that there is not plenty of construction waiting to get done in this country.

Behind us stands the Brent Spence Bridge.  It’s located on one of the busiest trucking routes in North America.  It sees about 150,000 vehicles every single day.  And it’s in such poor condition that it's been labeled "functionally obsolete."  Think about that -- functionally obsolete.  That doesn’t sound good, does it?

AUDIENCE:  Nooo!

THE PRESIDENT:  It’s safe to --

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Kind of like John Boehner.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  It's safe to drive on, but it was not designed to accommodate today’s traffic, which can stretch out for a mile.  Shipping companies try to have their trucks avoid the bridge.  Of course, that only ends up costing them more money as well.

The thing is there are bridges and roads and highways like that throughout the region.  A major bridge that connects Kentucky and Indiana just closed down for safety reasons.  Another aging bridge that crosses over the Ohio River in Ironton could be replaced right now.  There are rail stations in Cleveland and Toledo in desperate need of repair.  And the same is true in cities and towns all across America.  It makes your commute longer.  It costs our businesses billions of dollars -- they could be moving products faster if they had better transportation routes.  And in some cases, it’s not safe.

Now, we used to have the best infrastructure in the world here in America.  We’re the country that built the Intercontinental Railroad, the Interstate Highway System.  (Applause.)  We built the Hoover Dam.  We built the Grand Central Station.  (Applause.)  So how can we now sit back and let China build the best railroads?  And let Europe build the best highways?  And have Singapore build a nicer airport?  At a time when we've got millions of unemployed construction workers out there just ready to get on the job, ready to do the work to rebuilding America.  (Applause.)

So, Cincinnati, we are better than that.  We're smarter than that.  And that’s why I sent Congress the American Jobs Act 10 days ago.  (Applause.)  This bill is not that complicated.  It's a bill that would put people back to work rebuilding America -- repairing our roads, repairing our bridges, repairing our schools.  It would lead to jobs for concrete workers like the ones here at Hilltop; jobs for construction workers and masons, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, architects, engineers, ironworkers -- put folks back to work.  (Applause.)

There is work to be done, and there are workers ready to do it.  So let’s tell Congress to pass this jobs bill right away.  (Applause.)

AUDIENCE:  Pass this bill!  Pass this bill!  Pass this bill!

THE PRESIDENT:  Pass this bill!  (Laughter.)  Pass the bill!

Tell them to pass the jobs bill, and not only will we start rebuilding America, but we can also put thousands of teachers back to work.  (Applause.)

I was with the President of South Korea -- I was up at the United Nations.  We were doing a bunch of stuff.  And he's told me in the past -- I've asked him, I said, what's your biggest challenge?  He says, oh, education.  I said, well, what are you dealing with?  He said, well, you know what, we're hiring so many teachers we can barely keep up, because we know that if we're going to compete in the future we've got to have the best teachers.  (Applause.)  And we've got to have our kids in school longer.  And we've got to make sure that they're learning math and science.

Well, while they're hiring teachers in droves, what are we doing?  We're laying off teachers.  It makes no sense in this new global economy where our young people's success is going to depend on the kind of education that they get.  So for us to be laying off teachers doesn’t make sense for our kids, it doesn’t make sense for us, it doesn’t make sense for our economy.

Pass this jobs bill and put teachers back in the classroom where they belong.  (Applause.)

AUDIENCE:  Pass this bill!  Pass this bill!  Pass this bill!

THE PRESIDENT:  They need to go and pass it.

Tell Congress to pass this jobs bill, and companies will get tax credit for hiring America’s veterans.  (Applause.)  We've been through a decade of war now.  Almost 2 million people have served.  And think about it.  They're suspending their careers; they're leaving their families; they're putting themselves in harm way -- all to protect us.  The last thing they should have to do is fight for a job when they come home.  (Applause.)  And if we pass this jobs bill it makes it easier for employers to hire those veterans.  That’s why we need to tell Congress to do what?  To pass the bill.

AUDIENCE:  Pass this bill!  Pass this bill!  Pass this bill!

THE PRESIDENT:  The American Jobs Act will cut taxes for the typical working family by $1,500 next year.  It will cut taxes for every small business in America.  It will give an extra tax cut to every small business owner who either hires more workers or raises those workers’ wages.  How many people here would like a raise?  (Applause.)

And we know that most small businesses are the creators of new jobs.  We’ve got a lot of folks in Congress who love to say how they’re behind America’s job creators.  Well, if that’s the case, then you should be passing this bill, because that’s what this bill is all about, is helping small businesses all across America.

Everything in this jobs bill has been supported in the past by Republicans and Democrats.  Everything in this jobs bill is paid for.  The idea for a big boost in construction is supported by the AFL-CIO, but it’s also supported by the Chamber of Commerce.  Those two don't get along on much, but they agree we should rebuild America.  (Applause.)

And, by the way, thanks to the reforms that we’ve put into place, when we start rebuilding America we’re going to change how business is done.  No more earmarks.  No more boondoggles.  No more bridges to nowhere.  We’re going to cut the red tape that prevents some of these construction projects from getting started as quickly as possible.  And we’ll set up an independent fund to attract private dollars and issue loans based on two criteria:  how badly is a construction project needed, and how much good will it do for the community.  Those are the only things we should be thinking about.  Not politics.  (Applause.)  And, by the way, that’s an idea that’s supported by a Massachusetts Democrat and a Texas Republican.  It’s a good idea.

So my question is, what's Congress waiting for?  Why is it taking so long?  Now, the bridge behind us just happens to connect the state that’s home to the Speaker of the House --

AUDIENCE:  Booo --

THE PRESIDENT:  -- with the home state of the Republican leader in the Senate.

AUDIENCE:  Booo --

THE PRESIDENT:  Now, that’s just a coincidence.  (Laughter.) Purely accidental that that happened.  (Laughter.)  But part of the reason I came here is because Mr. Boehner and Mr. McConnell, those are the two most powerful Republicans in government.  They can either kill this jobs bill, or they can help pass this jobs bill.  (Applause.)  And I know these men care about their states. They care about businesses; they care about workers here.  I can’t imagine that the Speaker wants to represent a state where nearly one in four bridges are classified as substandard -- one in four.  I know that when Senator McConnell visited the closed bridge in Kentucky, he said that, “Roads and bridges are not partisan in Washington.”  That’s great.  I know that Paul Ryan, the Republican in charge of the budget process, recently said that "you can’t deny that infrastructure does creates jobs."  That's what he said.

Well, if that’s the case, there’s no reason for Republicans in Congress to stand in the way of more construction projects.  There’s no reason to stand in the way of more jobs.

Mr. Boehner, Mr. McConnell, help us rebuild this bridge.  (Applause.)  Help us rebuild America.  Help us put construction workers back to work.  (Applause.)  Pass this bill.

AUDIENCE:  Pass this bill!  Pass this bill!  Pass this bill!  Pass this bill!

THE PRESIDENT:  Let’s pass the bill.

AUDIENCE:  Pass this bill!  Pass this bill!  Pass this bill!

THE PRESIDENT:  Now, some folks in Congress, they say, well, we don’t like how it’s paid for.  Well, it’s paid for as part of my larger plan to pay down our debt.  And that's why I make some additional cuts in spending.  We already cut a trillion dollars in spending.  This makes an additional hundreds of billions of dollars in cuts in spending, but it also asks the wealthiest Americans and the biggest corporations to pay their fair share of taxes.  (Applause.)

Now, that should not be too much to ask.  And by the way, it wouldn’t kick in until 2013.  So when you hear folks say, oh, we shouldn’t be raising taxes right now -- nobody is talking about raising taxes right now.  We’re talking about cutting taxes right now.  But it does mean that there’s a long-term plan, and part of it involves everybody doing their fair share.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Now, this isn’t to punish success.  What’s great about this country is our belief that anybody can make it. If you’re willing to put in the sweat, if you’re willing to roll up your sleeves, if you’re willing to work hard, you’ve got a good idea, you’re out there taking a risk -- God bless you.  You can make millions, you can make billions of dollars in America.  This is the land of opportunity.  (Applause.)  That’s great.  All I’m saying is, if you’ve done well -- I’ve done well -- then you should do a little something to give something back.  (Applause.) You should want to see the country that provided you with this opportunity to be successful, and be able to provide opportunity for the young people who are going to be coming up behind you.  (Applause.)

And all I’m saying is that everything should be fair.  You know, you learn the idea of fairness when you’re two, three years old.  Right?  You’re in the sandbox and you don’t want to let somebody play with your truck -- (laughter) -- and your mom or your daddy go up and they say, “No, hon, that’s not fair, you’ve got to share.”  Isn’t that what they say?  Things have to be fair.  So all I’m saying is that Warren Buffett’s secretary should not be paying a lower [sic] tax rate on her income than Warren Buffett.  (Applause.)  That doesn’t make any sense.  A construction worker who’s making 50 or 60 grand a year shouldn’t be paying higher tax rates than the guy who’s making $50 million a year.  (Applause.)  And that’s how it’s working right now.  Because they get all these loopholes and tax breaks that you don’t get.

So for me to say, let’s close those loopholes, let’s eliminate those tax breaks, and let’s make sure that everybody is paying their fair share -- there’s nothing wrong with that.  (Applause.)

Now, this is about priorities.  It’s about making choices.  If we just had all kinds of money and everybody was working, and we hadn’t gone through the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, then maybe we wouldn’t have to make choices.  But right now we’ve got to make some choices.  We’ve got to decide what our priorities are.  If we want to pay for this jobs plan, and close the deficit, and invest in our infrastructure, and make sure we’ve got the best education system in the world, the money has got to come from some place.  Would you rather that the oil companies get to keep their tax loopholes?

AUDIENCE:  No!

THE PRESIDENT:  Or would you rather make sure that we’re hiring thousands of construction workers to rebuild America?  (Applause.)  Would you rather keep in place special tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires?

AUDIENCE:  No!

THE PRESIDENT:  Or would you say, let’s get teachers back in the classroom so our children can learn?  (Applause.)

Now, the Republicans, when I talked about this earlier in the week, they said, well, this is class warfare.  You know what, if asking a billionaire to pay their fair share of taxes, to pay the same tax rate as a plumber or a teacher is class warfare, then you know what, I’m a warrior for the middle class.  (Applause.)  I’m happy to fight for the middle class.  I’m happy to fight for working people.  (Applause.)  Because the only warfare I've seen is the battle against the middle class over the last 10, 15 years.

It’s time to build an economy that creates good, middle-class jobs in this country.  It’s time to build an economy that honors the values of hard work and responsibility.  It’s time to build an economy that lasts.  And, Cincinnati, that starts right now.  That starts with your help.  (Applause.)  Maybe some of the people in Congress would rather settle their differences at the ballot box than work together right now.  In fact, a while back, Senator McConnell said that his “top priority” -- number-one priority -- was “to defeat the President.”  That was his top priority.

AUDIENCE:  Booo --

THE PRESIDENT:  Not jobs, not putting people back to work, not rebuilding America.  Beating me.  Well, I’ve got news for him, and every other member of Congress who feels the same way.  The next election is 14 months away, and I’ll be happy to tangle sometime down the road.  But the American people right now don’t have the luxury of waiting to solve our problems for another 14 months.  (Applause.)  A lot of folks are living paycheck to paycheck.  A lot of folks are just barely getting by.  They need us to get to work right now.  They need us to pass this bill.  (Applause.)

So I’m asking all of you -- I need everybody here to lift your voices -- not just in Cincinnati, but anybody who's watching TV, or anybody who's within the range of my voice -- I want everybody to lift up their voices.  I want you to call.  I want you to email.  I want you to tweet.  I want you to fax.  I want you to visit.  If you want, write a letter -- it’s been a while. (Laughter.)  I want you to tell your congressperson that the time for gridlock and games-playing is over.  Tell them you want to create jobs, so pass this bill.  (Applause.)

If you want construction workers rebuilding America -- pass this bill.  (Applause.)  If you want teachers back in the classrooms -- pass this bill.

AUDIENCE:  Pass this bill!

THE PRESIDENT:  If you want to cut taxes for middle-class families -- pass this bill.

AUDIENCE:  Pass this bill!

THE PRESIDENT:  If you want to help small businesses, what do you do?

THE AUDIENCE:  Pass this bill!

THE PRESIDENT:  If you want veterans to share in the opportunities of this country, what should you do?

THE AUDIENCE:  Pass this bill!

THE PRESIDENT:  Now is the time to act.  Because we are not a people that just sit back and wait for things to happen.  We go ahead and make things happen.  We’re tougher than the times we live in.  We are bigger than the politics that we’ve been seeing these last few months.  Let’s meet this moment.  Let’s get back to work.  Let’s show the world once again why America is the greatest nation on Earth.

God bless you.  And God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

END                                                         3:12 P.M. EDT

We'll post the text of the speech soon (the President veered off script a number of times, getting all folksy, dropping the final "g's off words), and have more details on the President's trip in a bit.  Meantime, you can listen to the live stream here.

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It's A Free Country ®

Obama in NYC: Diplomat by Day, Partisan Fighter by Night

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

President Barack Obama started the week in the Rose Garden where he forcefully laid out his case for raising some taxes on the wealthy to help pay for his jobs bill and cut the deficit. But the annual United Nations General Assembly has forced the president to abandon that push during daylight hours. Still once night fell on his first two evenings in New York this week, the president returned to his aggressive pushback against Congressional Republicans at two campaign fundraisers.

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It's A Free Blog

Opinion: Three Ways the Parties Can Agree on Reducing the Debt and Saving America

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

One might argue that if both sides show a little willingness to buck partisan conventions and negotiate, it would be good for both the budget and approval deficits. But maybe there are places that Dems and the GOP can agree beyond trading away their core values.

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It's A Free Country ®

Breaking Down Obama's Deficit Reduction Proposal

Monday, September 19, 2011

[It's as if Obama said,] Republicans don't want to compromise right now, so I'm going to come out with a plan that's closer to what I would actually want if I could do whatever I wanted.

David Leonhardt, Washington bureau chief for the New York Times, on The Brian Lehrer Show

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It's A Free Blog

Opinion: Obama's Job Plan Won't Deliver Jobs

Friday, September 16, 2011

Businesses don't need more capital, in fact capital is very cheap right now. The problem is not that labor isn't cheap. The problem is that businesses don't need any more workers to keep up.

-Solomon Kleinsmith, It's A Free Country blogger.

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The Takeaway

Boehner's Jobs Speech Looks to the Private Sector

Friday, September 16, 2011

House speaker John Boehner made his own speech about jobs yesterday, to the Economic Club of Washington. In his speech, Boehner said, "The president’s proposals are a poor substitute for the pro-growth policies that are needed to remove barriers to job creation in America ... the policies that are needed to put America back to work," and stressed the importance of the private sector in generating jobs.

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