Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Oh., is visiting Louisville on Monday to speak at the University of Louisville’s McConnell Center as part of its fall lecture series.
When the GOP took control of the House in 2010 with the help of the Tea Party, the Ohio congressman became one of the most powerful and influential Republicans in Washington. For most the year, Boehner jousted with President Barack Obama and stood against his agenda.
U of L political science professor Dewey Clayton says Boehner’s tenure, however, has been defined by tussles with the Tea Party as much as with President Obama.
“Oftentimes it has sort of thwarted his ability to lead and round up the troops like he’s wanted to. So in many instances when Boehner was negotiating various things it appeared as though he was being held hostage by the Tea Party. And sometimes he had to back down on various deals because they had compromised his position,” he says.
The Republican leader has had a tumultuous tenure as speaker, which has been marked by a nasty stalemate over the nation’s debt ceiling with brought the federal government to the brink of default.
Boehner has advocated for cutting the deficit, but he has opposed tax increases as a trade-off.
Last week, the speaker rejected a proposal by House Democrats to slash $3 trillion from the country’s debt because it contained significant revenue increases.
Congressman John Yarmuth, D-Ky., says Democrats are willing to cooperate with Boehner when necessary, but the speaker isn’t willing to break with the Tea Party and hasn’t been able to control his own caucus.
“He has been a dismal failure in organizing his members in a way that we effectively deal with the challenges that this country faces,” says Yarmuth. “And what we’ve been left with is a bunch of symbolic political votes that stand no chance of passage and which don’t address the basic problems that most Americans are concerned about.”
Clayton says it is unusual for freshman members to take control of the agenda, but the new Republicans were emboldened by the Tea Party and have frustrated Boehner’s ability to lead.
“Normally when you come in your first year and you’re in the first session of your new term in Congress, you take your cues from the leadership. But don’t come in demanding with your own agenda. This particular group came in with their own agenda. I’m sure that clearly threw the speaker off his stride somewhat,” he says.
Boehner will be speaking at 8:30 a.m. about job creation, the economy and the workings of the House of Representatives.
He is the latest addition to the McConnell Center’s high-profiled lecture series. The center has previously featured Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden, Senator John McCain and former President George W. Bush.