A New Year and a New Speaker: Boehner Takes Over
John Boehner was officially selected the next Speaker of the House of Representatives on Wednesday. Boehner takes over from Democrat Nancy Pelosi, who held the position since 2007. The change was necessary after the results of the midterm elections, which saw the Republicans surge into the House, taking back control from the Democrats. Boehner comfortably received enough votes to best Pelosi, as party discipline rained supreme. With tears in his eyes (as is more often than not the case for Boehner), he attended the podium where he expressed his gratitude for the position he now holds.
Americans often trumpet their beloved peaceful transitions of power which are often used as an indication of the health of a democracy. While this sometimes gets old, it is always interesting to see. Pelosi was all smiles as she handed the ceremonial gavel to Boehner and praised her counterpart. Boehner quickly laid out the Republicans’ plans for this next session. Not surprisingly, they wish to see a dramatic rollback in the federal spending, which Republicans believe is out of control. The other main target is President Obama’s healthcare bill, which will likely be a topic of significant interest for members of Congress. While Obama still has the Senate on his side, and he of course has the veto, this will be a challenging two years for him, and the compromises he might be forced to make with the right, could hurt him with his own supporters.
Boehner has had an up and down time with the Republican party. Since his election in the early 1990’s he has seen success and setbacks. This is by far his greatest accomplishment with the party. Many people do not realize just how close to power the Speaker of the House actually is. If something was to happen to both the president and vice president (god forbid), the Speaker of the House is next in line to succeed to the presidency. Obviously the likelihood of this is extremely low and it has never occurred, but it is still a possibility.
It will be very interesting to see the relationship that Boehner builds with Obama and how he is received by the American people. Nancy Pelosi seems to have created very strong feelings amongst voters. Some love the work she has done as leader, and would be more than happy to see her return to the position in the future. However, there are many (19 of whom are in her party and did not vote for her Wednesday) who strongly dislike her, and blame many of the current problems on her leadership. If Boehner plays his cards right, he could be as well remembered as Tip O’Neill and Newt Gingrich who each each fundamentally influenced their party while in the position. He could also lead his party down a lonely road, which would see them unarmed to fight the Democrats in 2012.
First on the agenda for this next session will be spending cuts. Even myself, who wouldn’t necessarily be quick to jump on board a Republican bandwagon, can appreciate the calls for fiscal restraint that many on the right wish to see. There is no question spending is through the roof. However, the current economic situation does require some money pumped into the economy in order to revive it. The trick will be to slash spending in the right areas, so the American people see a difference, but it doesn’t harm the recovery process.
Another desire Boehner outlined yesterday was transparency and accountability. This is just typical political jargon which every party throws out once they have been ushered back into the halls of power. I can’t foresee any real changes coming from this. As for healthcare, well I am not sure what to say. It is such a divisive issue that both sides are passionate about. I don’t think this Congress will solve it, nor many that come after it.
Now that Mr. Boehner officially has the reins, it will be interesting to see if his colour changes. Perhaps his job as speaker will decrease the amount of time he can spend in the tanning beds! (Kidding, of course).