- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 5, 2006

New House Majority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, ran as a pork-fighting visionary reformer, but has said he will not kill earmarks and supports allowing private travel if cleared with other members of Congress.

He has said he will not set policy from the top but rather let committee chairmen write legislation and then help them win the floor vote and the public debate.

“I think you’re going to see a much different leadership style from John,” said Rep. H. James Saxton, New Jersey Republican. “He is a very organized and focused individual who has shown in his private office in Washington as well as in his role as chairman of the conference [in the 1990s] an ability to organize and get things done.”

Mr. Boehner was elected Thursday over acting Majority Leader Roy Blunt, Missouri Republican, in a move members said was about a fresh face and a new push for reform. But Mr. Boehner said yesterday that Congress must be careful not to do too much.

“In the past when these scandals have erupted, what’s happened is Congress has overreacted, and two days later, nobody knew what happened,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”

“Taking actions to ban this and ban that one when there’s no appearance of a problem, there’s no foundation of a problem, I think in fact does not serve the institution well,” he said.

Democrats pounced on Mr. Boehner’s comments as a sign that House Republicans haven’t changed.

“Leadership in Congress isn’t just about the personalities; it’s about policies and priorities,” said Bill Burton, spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

After Mr. Boehner’s victory, he stressed to reporters that he had not made any promises about what he would do or change as majority leader, even though in a 14-page document sent to House Republican conservatives he talked about several bills he would push, and some he would be hesitant to schedule for the floor, such as those that violate the budget or increase entitlement spending.

“If you look, most of that was discussion about working with the relevant committees and whether they could produce what was asked for,” Mr. Boehner told reporters the day after the election. “I was very careful not to make promises and commitments.”

He also now talks about “if” House Republicans develop a big goal this year. Last month, he promised to “immediately upon concluding our leadership elections” send out a questionnaire and put together a task force to determine a major party-unifying vision.

Boehner spokesman Kevin Smith said the questionnaire “is in the works.” He said the Ohioan wants to see a big goal, but that House Republicans first must unify around a collective vision that will drive big and small goals.

Mr. Saxton said Mr. Boehner’s main contribution will be in rejecting “top-down leadership.”

“We will see something quite different from John,” he said. “He believes in listening to members. He believes in taking members’ recommendations into account when developing an agenda.”

He and Rep. Chris Cannon, Utah Republican, said Mr. Boehner’s time as a committee chairman matters. Mr. DeLay, Mr. Blunt and House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican, all became top leaders without ever running a full committee.

“John Boehner plays to win; he doesn’t play not to lose,” Mr. Cannon said.

Mr. Cannon said Mr. Boehner will be able to keep his commitments because he knows how to accomplish things in Congress.

“I am convinced John Boehner knew what he was saying when he made those commitments. He understands how the system works,” he said.

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