The top Republican in Congress says he opposes much of the ambitious second-term agenda laid out by US President Barack Obama in his annual State of the Union address to Congress.
As Obama hit the road to drum up support for his plans to hike the minimum wage, revive manufacturing and his other State of the Union proposals, US House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner said on Wednesday that he was skeptical of many of Obama’s ideas.
Boehner expressed his doubts for the president’s call for taxpayer-funded help for pre-school education for all four-year-olds, and refused to swing behind any of Obama’s gun-control proposals. He said he opposed the president’s plan to raise the minimum wage to US$9 an hour.
The speaker also said he would not commit to passing a pathway to citizenship for the US’ 11 million illegal immigrants, though he said doing so would be “somewhat helpful” to members of his party as they seek to regain support among Hispanics, who voted overwhelmingly for Democrats in the elections in November last year.
“There’s no magic potion that’s going to solve our party’s woes with Hispanics,” he said.
Boehner also said it was unlikely the Republican-controlled House and Democratic-led Senate would prevent a wave of sharp automatic spending cuts from beginning to strike the economy in two weeks. Yet he sounded hopeful about avoiding a partial shutdown of the government when a temporary spending bill expires next month.
The Republican said he gets along well with Obama, but that their relationship has not generated much in the way of results, pointing to two failed rounds of budget talks in 2011 and at the end of last year, before a last-minute deal was reached to avert automatic income tax increases for all Americans. Boehner is frustrated that spending cuts Obama signaled he would agree to in 2011 have been taken off the table since the election.
“It hasn’t been real productive the last two years, and frankly, every time I’ve gotten into one of these high-profile negotiations, it’s my rear end that got burnt,” Boehner said. “It’s just probably not the best way for our government to operate.”
On immigration, Boehner said he was “encouraged” by bipartisan efforts to reform the nation’s fractured laws, but would not say whether he would support a bill that includes a pathway to citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants. Nor would he commit to a pathway to citizenship for the so-called “dreamers” — young people brought to the US illegally.
On gun control, Boehner said he would consider measures passed by the Democratic-led Senate, but would not pledge to hold votes on any of Obama’s core principles, including universal background checks for all gun purchasers. The expanded background checks are broadly supported by the public.
Meanwhile, Obama took his case to Georgia yesterday and heads to his hometown of Chicago today, all part of his effort to build popular support for an agenda facing stiff resistance back in Washington.