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Boehner’s Pursuit of Big Deal Irks GOP

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call

Speaker John Boehner said Wednesday he remains committed to a "grand bargain" to cut the deficit while reforming entitlements and taxes despite growing GOP unhappiness with his longtime push to cut a deal with President Barack Obama.

Although those close to the Ohio Republican said he realizes reaching an agreement with Obama will not happen before next year's elections, at least publicly the Speaker is still pushing for a deal.

Boehner continued with that line of pursuit even as Congressional Republicans and Democrats and the White House are in an increasingly tense standoff this week over wrapping up the appropriations process and extending a payroll tax cut.

Speaking at a Wednesday morning event sponsored by Politico, Boehner said, "If I had my wish list ... I'd like to pass a large debt reduction bill. ... Our debt hangs over our economy and hangs over the American people like a wet blanket."

Those comments echo earlier statements by Boehner, including his pronouncement earlier this month that "the Congress still must work with the president to find a solution to our long-term debt. ... I'm one of those who just never gives up, and I'm not going to give up here either."

Indeed, pursuit of a grand bargain has been a central theme of his speakership. It began with his negotiations with Obama this spring on a continuing resolution, continued through the debt talks led by Vice President Joseph Biden, kept up through Boehner's negotiations on the debt ceiling with Obama in July and was present during the deliberations of the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction.

Those close to Boehner said his drive to complete the grand bargain stems from his tendency to take a long view of things, rather than focusing on daily political fights.

Boehner has always "taken the strategic view that we need to address our problems over the long term. ... [He] doesn't let the day-to-day jostling affect" how he works, said Terry Holt, a longtime Boehner ally.

"He doesn't let it bother him like other people in the past have let it bother them," Holt said, arguing that previous Speakers have taken a much more hands-on approach to managing the chamber.

Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa) one of Boehner's closest friends in the House agreed. Taking a long view is "something he's always strived to do," Latham said, explaining that even with repeated defeats this year, Boehner remains committed because "what has happened in the past doesn't mean it prevents getting something done in the future."

Indeed, taking a long view has been a hallmark of Boehner's political career, most notably his careful return to leadership after being cast out in 1998.

While those close to Boehner view his ability to see the long game as a strength, his dogged pursuit of the grand bargain is a serious problem for a growing number in the GOP.

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