- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 18, 2014

House Speaker John A. Boehner on Thursday promised tax reform, an intense focus on boosting energy production and creating U.S. jobs, and even hinted at action on immigration, if the GOP wins control of both chambers of Congress in November’s elections.

In a speech setting out his ideas for getting the economy “humming” again, Mr. Boehner also signaled his own staying power as the GOP’s top leader in Washington, having weathered several near-revolts from his own troops and having seen one of his potential rivals resign from Congress over the summer.

Political analysts said not only has he survived, but he could be stronger than ever.

“I think he is unchallengeable,” former House Speaker Newt Gingrich told The Washington Times. “He is the speaker, and he will be the speaker.”

In a speech to the American Enterprise Institute, Mr. Boehner laid out five goals for boosting the economy, including simplifying the tax code, cutting federal spending and slashing regulations he said are tying businesses’ hands.

He also said the government should boost oil and gas production by approving the Keystone XL pipeline and by opening up more federal lands for energy exploration.

And he called for expanding the federally funded school-choice program — known as the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, which has proven to be a success in the nation’s capital.

“Why wouldn’t we go ahead and start expanding this initiative to the rest of the country?” Mr. Boehner said. “Let’s give more poor children and their parents a chance to find the better schools they need and deserve.”

The speech followed a week in which Mr. Boehner helped pass a measure granting President Obama authority to arm and equip Syrian rebels to fight against the Islamic State.

That came as part of a stopgap funding bill to keep the government running into December.

It was a huge reversal from a year earlier, when a conservative rebellion forced him to engage in a year-end funding-bill showdown over Obamacare, resulting in a 17-day partial government shutdown.

The GOP eventually relented — and Mr. Gingrich said Mr. Boehner emerged stronger.

“He had to go through the process of the shutdown so the tea party knew that he would in fact do what they asked him to do,” he said. “But when it failed, I think he got a great deal of credit for having tried. I think that in many ways sealed off his critics on the right.”

As for his own fortunes, Mr. Boehner appears to have better chemistry with his leadership team of Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Majority Whip Steve Scalise, who took over after former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor resigned this summer, having lost his primary election in June.

Conservative lawmakers also applaud the new leadership team for not shutting them out of the legislative debates, and say Mr. Boehner will likely get re-elected speaker in the next Congress.

“I don’t see anybody right now going forward and mounting a challenge to the speaker,” said Rep. Raul Labrador, Idaho Republican, who has regularly clashed with Mr. Boehner, and opposed him in the vote for speaker in 2013. “However, if we don’t take the Senate, I think there might be rumblings as to maybe we need a new direction of the Republican Party.”

John Feehery, a GOP strategist who worked under former House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, said Mr. Bohener is benefiting from the fact that the Republicans that came into office as part of the 2010 tea party wave are growing up.

“They now understand that Boehner knows what the hell he is doing,” Mr. Feehery said. “Shutting the government down was a dumb strategy, and Boehner was proved right by that episode.”

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