In what was hyped as a potential road map for House Republicans in the 114th Congress, Speaker John A. Boehner laid out a five-point vision for creating growth and mobility in America on Thursday.
On the 12th floor suite of the American Enterprise Institute, Boehner pushed tax reform, reduced spending, and improvements to the legal, regulatory and education systems as items Congress needed to address in order to make America "the best place to work, save and invest."
The Ohio Republican said Congress could do it "the Washington way" — "move around some dirt, see what happens" — or they could "lay a solid foundation for growth and mobility, not pick one thing over the other." Despite one of the least productive Congresses of all time, Boehner lauded the direction the House had taken since he became speaker in 2011. He said the House was more open and transparent. ("For the first time, legislative data is posted online in XML and in bulk.")
He noted that House proceedings and committee hearings were now streamed online. ("You can even bring your iPad to the House floor.") He noted that earmarks are gone. That the cost of House operations had decreased by more than 13 percent. And that the House had considered 33 bills under an open process.
"So we’re on the right track, and much of the credit goes to the people in the institution who do the heavy lifting," Boehner said.
But he acknowledged there was "a lot more" Congress could do, and he said Washington's focus needed to be on "American solutions" — "to help get people back to work, lower costs at home and restore opportunity for all."
Boehner's first point was a tax overhaul.
"Our tax code is terrible," Boehner said. "Nobody understands it — not even the IRS."
He likened the current debate over corporate tax inversions to "fussing over a divot when the road is loaded with potholes." And he proposed addressing the entire tax code. "Make it pro-growth, make it pro-family," he said. "Bring down the rates for every American, clear out all the loopholes, allow people to do their taxes on two sheets of paper.
"I know I can feel the blood pressure in the room going down already," he said, to polite, AEI-crowd laughter.
On his second point — spending cuts — Boehner said baby boomers like him were "stealing from our kids and grandkids — robbing them of benefits they’ll never see and leaving them with burdens that are nearly impossible to repay."
He said you couldn't simply throw out entitlement programs, but you have to change them.
While Boehner didn't delve into details on the subject, his mention of addressing programs like Medicare — which he only said by name during the question-and-answer portion of the speech — was clearly his most controversial proposal.
On his third point, tackling the legal system, Boehner said America had gotten to the point where litigation was a first resort, not a last one.
Boehner didn't lay out any specific proposal to address reducing lawsuits, but he did say Congress "ought to establish reasonable limits on lawsuits and compensation."
On his fourth point, regulations, Boehner said the government's regulatory policy was "coercive, combative and very expensive."
Boehner pointed to other countries that have a "more pragmatic process."
On education, Boehner said not enough kids were learning.
"And many aren’t learning because they’re sentenced to attend a struggling school," Boehner said.
To address the issue, he mentioned the school choice initiative, the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, which he seemed supportive of expanding.
"So those are the five things," Boehner said. "We do these five things in a meaningful way, we can reset the foundation of our economy for the next two or three generations."
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