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Boehner emerges as Romney's chief ally on Capitol Hill

 

One of the more fascinating developments in the last two weeks on Capitol Hill has been the degree to which House Speaker John Boehner has gone after President Obama and helped to try and frame Obama's general election matchup against Mitt Romney.

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House Speaker John Boehner hastily arranged a late afternoon press conference on Wednesday to announce that the GOP would take up a student loans interest rate extension bill on Friday that would be paid for by stripping $6 billion from monies used to fund Obama's health care law.

After endorsing Romney on April 17, Boehner started the attack the very next day, accusing Obama of being "AWOL" for the last 6 months and on a "constant campaign." Boehner pushed Obama on his handling of the economy, asking, "Where's he been, what are his ideas?” and was critical of the president  for “failing to lead.”

On Wednesday, Boehner went after Obama for his recent trips to the Iowa, Colorado and North Carolina saying they were "campaign theatrics."

The Republican speaker took his criticism a step further Thursday morning, when he criticized Obama for using taxpayer funds for "campaign speeches" before launching into a blistering assault saying the president was falling short by not leading on jobs legislation, student loan interest rates, gas prices, the national drug shortage -- all the while going around the country drumming up "fake issues."

"This is the biggest job in the world and I've never seen a president make it smaller," Boehner said. "The president keeps attempting to invent these fake fights because he doesn't have a record of success or a positive agenda for our country."

He continued, "It's as simple as this, the emperor has no clothes. They can't talk about their record on jobs because their policies have made the economy worse. They can't talk about their record on spending because the president's policies have added 5 trillion dollars to the national debt. And they can't talk about their record on gas prices because gas prices have more than doubled on the president's watch."

NBC News today asked Boehner if he was in contact with the Romney campaign and coordinating these types of attacks. He said it had "been awhile” since he spoke to team Romney and that he "made it a habit not to talk to the candidate or the campaigns during this process." When pressed if he was in fact doing Romney’s bidding, Boehner answered, "I'm doing my own."

While Boehner may not be frequently speaking with Romney’s Boston-based campaign, he significantly assisted Romney this week by announcing he was putting a GOP version of student loan legislation on the floor. This past Tuesday. Romney stated that he supported extending student loan rates at 3.4 percent, but wasn't specific on how he’d pay for it.

Even though this issue had rarely been mentioned by House Republicans recently, Boehner hastily arranged a late afternoon press conference on Wednesday to announce that the GOP would take up a student loans interest rate extension bill on Friday that would be paid for by stripping $6 billion from monies used to fund Obama's health care law. Romney was then free to support Boehner's bill and a Republican option that made the student loan issue deficit neutral.

A GOP aide speaking on the condition of anonymity told NBC News that, last week, one of Romney’s policy aides gave the House GOP leadership a “heads up” that the campaign was going to support the extension of student loans at 3.4 percent. Upon hearing this news, the House GOP formulated a plan that would pay for an extension of the loans that wouldn’t add to the debt and inevitably gave Romney something to back that was a GOP alternative.

One GOP House member told NBC News that Boehner being Romney’s “attack dog” would be positive for the party: “He’s certainly easier to understand than Romney and makes the case against the president in a more defined way. It’ll help us.”

While the presidential race begins to heat up, this week could be remembered for when House Speaker John Boehner ratcheted up the rhetoric went into his own “campaign."