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Boehner Promises to Reform House Rules and Earmarks

Updated: 4:28 p.m.House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Thursday said Republicans would alter House rules to restore “order” and reform the earmarking process if the GOP takes the majority in November.The speech to the American Enterprise Institute is the fourth in a series of major public addresses Boehner has given this year that outline how he would run the House if elected Speaker. Boehner reiterated several of the government reform planks of the GOP’s new “Pledge to America” agenda and accused Democrats of routinely altering the rules in order to ram through their agenda.“Leaders overreach because the rules allow them to. Legislators duck their responsibilities because the rules help them to,” he said. “And when the rules don’t suit the majority's purposes, they are just ignored.”Boehner acknowledged his party had abused the rules in the past, but promised the GOP had seen the error of its ways after their numbers were slashed in consecutive election cycles. In response to questions, Boehner said that under existing procedures, “there are about five people who determine the outcome of the legislative process” — basically the chairman and ranking member of the committee, and the speaker and staff. “Four hundred and thirty of us stand on the sidelines and watch and we vote — I just think it’s reprehensible,” he said.Republicans have hammered House Democrats over the past few months for failing to introduce a budget, saying it is a symptom of a larger spending problem within the majority party. Boehner said Republicans might seek to rewrite the 1974 Budget Act in order to ensure that spending is reduced drastically.“The ‘pay as you go’ rule has been repeatedly ignored to justify billions of dollars in new spending and tax and fee increases,” he said. “So we ought to start at square one and give serious consideration to revisiting — and perhaps rewriting — the 1974 Budget Act.”He also proposed implementing a rule that each bill that comes to the House floor contain a clear citation of constitutional authority, taking bills up one at a time in order to avoid large omnibus legislation. “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,” Boehner said. “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,” Boehner said. Boehner did not offer any specifics as to how the GOP would reform the process of earmarking, an issue that was only mentioned briefly in the pledge, but promised to “bring fundamental change to the manner in which Washington spends taxpayers' money” if he is elected Speaker of the House. “I believe it is our obligation to end earmarking as we know it and bring fundamental change to the manner in which Washington spends taxpayers' money, and I will continue to be an advocate for reforms to ensure that happens,” he said.

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