Speaker John A. Boehner took to the press conference podium Thursday to set the record straight on a line of attack he seems to be hearing from conservatives: That he has no spine.
“It does pain me to be described as ‘spineless’ or a ‘squish,'” a somewhat-jocular Boehner said. “I tell you what pains me the most is when they describe me as ‘the establishment,'” Boehner said.
The Ohio Republican described himself as “the most anti-establishment speaker we’ve ever had,” and he enumerated some of his credentials for the title.
Boehner said he had given some thought, “as you might imagine,” as to why so many conservatives are frustrated with him. “This frustration that’s out there, they need to take it out on somebody,” Boehner explained. “They take it out on the president, take it out on me — and it comes with the job.”
But while Boehner seemed to understand the frustration, he didn’t exactly seem to think it was fair. “During my years here when I voted, I had the eighth most-conservative voting record in the conference,” he said.
Boehner made the remarks during his weekly press conference in which he also attacked the president for issuing veto threats on two pieces of upcoming legislation, the Keystone XL Pipeline and a bill raising the full-time work week from 30 hours to 40. Boehner said President Barack Obama could have waited a few hours — “he could have waited a few days!” — before issuing veto threats.
“We were taking oaths of office and he was issuing veto threats,” Boehner said. “Come on!”
Boehner also expressed his ongoing frustration with the president’s executive actions on immigration. The newly re-elected speaker called it an “affront to the rule of law,” and he said he had told House Republicans they would fight that executive action “tooth and nail” once Republicans had new majorities in the House and Senate. “And I meant it,” Boehner said.
Exactly how Boehner caveated that fight on the executive action isn’t clear. Much of the conservative frustration during the lame duck was over what they saw as a gap between Boehner’s promise to fight the immigration action “tooth and nail” and the House’s legislation, which did not block that funding in a government spending bill.
The speaker’s promise to fight “tooth and nail” now that Republicans also control the Senate appears to be new. Whether that will appease conservatives, or further justify their contention that Boehner is a “squish,” remains to be seen.
Either way, Department of Homeland Security funding runs out Feb. 28.
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