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Boehner to tout proposed reform agenda


Many political prognosticators are predicting a significant GOP victory in November, and one way Republicans have been able to score points with the electorate is by touching upon the unpopularity of Congress.

With only 20% of the country approving of the job Congress is doing, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) will deliver his personal vision at 2:00 pm ET for congressional reform in a speech at the conservative think-tank the American Enterprise Institute.

In excerpts of the 20-minute speech obtained by NBC News, Boehner promotes his desire to “restore trust in the people’s house.” He cites the “fiscal recklessness” of Congress over the last 10 years and does not hesitate from placing fault on his own party for the recent direction of the House. Americans have a largely unfavorable opinion of Boehner's party, according to the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, with just 31% having a favorable opinion of them and 43% with an unfavorable one. (Democrats don't fare much better -- 37% expressed a favorable opinion, 42 had an unfavorable one.)


“Reform should be an ongoing and inclusive effort," he will say. "I don't have all the answers, and wouldn't pretend to. I welcome ideas and helping hands from any lawmaker, expert, or citizen about how we can make this institution function again.”

Aides close to the Republican leader also tell NBC News that Boehner will outline specific policy proposals of what he would like to see Congress do in its next session in order to restore fiscal balance. The proposals will focus on reforming current congressional rules, which Boehner feels make increased spending nearly impossible to cut, according to Boehner aides.

Boehner will also attack House Democrats for adjourning yesterday. Congress “is not concluding," he will said, "it’s collapsing,” because of Democrats’ inability to vote on what to do about the Bush tax cuts prior to the upcoming elections.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Office was quick to pounce on Boehner's upcoming speech. In a press release, the speaker's office said, “Perhaps Mr. Boehner will explain his party’s near unanimous opposition to the major earmark, ethics, and accountability reforms the Democratic-led House has enacted the last few years.”

*** UPDATE *** More excerpts have been released of Boehner's speech, including going after post offices and congratulating sports teams:

“The mission of the United States Congress is to serve the American people – and today, due in part to institutional barriers that have been in place for decades, that mission goes unfulfilled. These wounds have been self-inflicted by both parties, and if we do not fix them, it’s possible no one will.”
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“Much of the law that governs the process – the Budget Act of 1974 – is tied to rules instead of statutes. Consequently, we routinely waive the Budget Act’s requirements to serve our purposes. Can’t write a budget? Just waive the rule and move on. No harm, no foul. The ‘pay as you go’ rule has been repeatedly ignored to justify billions of dollars in new spending and tax and fee increases. So we ought to start at square one and give serious consideration to re-visiting, and perhaps re-writing, the 1974 Budget Act.”
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“Congress has been most maligned over the past generation for its fiscal recklessness, and rightly so. Current congressional rules are rigged to make it easy to increase spending and next-to-impossible to cut spending. Most spending bills come to the floor prepackaged in a manner that makes it as easy as possible to advance government spending and programs, and as difficult as possible to make cuts.

“[T]his is not a new problem. But if we’re serious about confronting the challenges that lie ahead for our nation, it’s totally inadequate.

“I propose today a different approach. Let’s do away with the concept of ‘comprehensive’ spending bills. Let’s break them up, to encourage scrutiny, and make spending cuts easier. Rather than pairing agencies and departments together, let them come to the House floor individually, to be judged on their own merit. For decades, the word ‘comprehensive’ has been used as a positive adjective in Washington. I would respectfully submit that those days are behind us. The American people are not well-served by ‘comprehensive.’ In an era of trillion-dollar deficits, we need a tighter focus; one that places an emphasis on getting it right, and less emphasis on getting it done quickly.

“Don’t assume I’m singling out the appropriators; I’m not. Over decades, in my view, authorizing committees in the House and Senate have also abdicated their responsibility, often authorizing billions of dollars knowing full well they will never actually be appropriated. Interest groups then lobby Congress to ‘fully fund’ the program, systematically creating pressure on the legislature to drive up spending. This has to stop.”
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“We should also consider developing a ‘cut as you go’ rule that would apply to any member proposing the creation of new government programs or benefits. Very simply, under this ‘CutGO’ rule, if it is your intention to create a new government program, you must also terminate or reduce spending on an existing government program of equal or greater size – in the very same bill.”
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“With all the challenges facing our nation, it is absurd that Congress spends so much time on naming post offices, congratulating sports teams, and celebrating the birthdays of historical figures. [O]ften these resolutions are poorly drafted, or duplicative of previously considered bills. And under both parties they’ve received little or no oversight. It’s my view that we should consider taking all these commemorative moments and special honors, and handle them during special orders and one-minute speeches. It’s time to focus on doing what we were sent here to do.”
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“Some changes have to be made, and we can’t keep kicking the can down the road. We’ve run out of road. It’s time to do what we say we’re going to do. For our constituents, our government, and the people’s House, settling for the ‘next best thing’ is no longer good enough.”