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Boehner Urges Republicans to Focus on Economy, Not Wright

House Speaker John Boehner
House Speaker John Boehner, Republican from Ohio, said "The issue is not Reverend Wright. The issue is the economy." Photographer: Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images

Republicans should focus on the U.S. economy and not waste time and money attacking President Barack Obama over his ties to his former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright Jr., House Speaker John Boehner said yesterday.

Interviewed on ABC’s “This Week,” Boehner joined presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in decrying a Republican strategist’s aborted plan to air racially tinged ads against Obama. Racially incendiary sermons by Wright became an issue in 2008 when Obama won the presidency.

“The issue is not Reverend Wright,” Boehner said. “The issue is the economy. This kind of nonsense shouldn’t happen. The election’s going to be about the economy and getting Americans back to work.”

Boehner reiterated that Congress shouldn’t wait until after the November elections to pass legislation aimed at reducing the federal debt. He acknowledged he faces a challenge corralling House Republicans.

“It is hard to keep 218 frogs in a wheelbarrow long enough to get a bill passed,” he said, referring to the number of lawmakers needed to pass most bills in the House.

Boehner, who previously said there is a one-in-three chance Republicans could lose control of the House in November, said, “If the election were held today, I feel good about it.”

Balanced Deficit Reduction

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, challenged Boehner on the ABC program to bring legislation to the House floor to cut taxes for middle-income earners.

“We all know we have to reduce the deficit,” she said. “We have to do it in a balanced way.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, both Republicans, said on the Sunday talk shows that Obama’s economic policies aren’t succeeding.

“We have a president who just this weekend at Camp David was advocating a position to the left of the European Central Bank, which has been resisting doing an American-type stimulus to solve their problems,” McConnell said on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” referring to the Group of Eight summit at the presidential retreat in rural Maryland that ended May 19.

Ryan said the European debt crisis should serve as “a cautionary tale” for the U.S. government.

European Austerity

“We can avoid the European-style austerity if we get the right leadership in place,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program. “We’ll prevent a debt crisis and we’ll grow the economy.”

Uncertainty on taxes, regulations, interest rates, inflation and the debt crisis are having a chilling effect on economic growth, Ryan said on a separate appearance on “Fox News Sunday.”

Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin, an Illinois Democrat appearing on “Meet the Press,” criticized Boehner for saying in a May 15 speech that he would draw “a line in the sand” requiring that any increase in the debt limit be offset by spending cuts.

“We saw what happened when the speaker last year played, in effect, debt-ceiling roulette,” Senator Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat, said on the CBS “Face the Nation” program. “He almost blew up the whole economy.”

Both Democrats were referring to last year’s political standoff over increasing the U.S. debt limit.

Compromise Legislation

Obama signed compromise legislation to lift the debt ceiling on Aug. 2, the day the Treasury had warned the nation’s borrowing authority would expire. One of the three major ratings companies, Standard & Poor’s, on Aug. 5 cut its rating on federal debt to AA+ from AAA, the first-ever downgrade of U.S. credit.

Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said on the CBS program that he wouldn’t vote to raise the debt ceiling “until you show me we’re serious about getting out of debt.”

Obama’s approach is to address the deficit in a balanced way, Austan Goolsbee, former chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said on “Fox News Sunday.”

The approach of the Republicans and the Romney campaign “is let us have massive cuts twice as big so that we can pay for the deficit reduction and multi-trillion dollars of additional tax cuts that are predominantly going to high-income people,” said Goolsbee, an economist at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business.

Main Concern

Romney’s business record shows his main concern was to amass wealth “by any means possible,” Democratic political strategist David Axelrod said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” As head of Bain Capital LLC, Romney sacrificed benefits for workers while he and his partners at the private-equity company “always walked away with money,” he said.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, speaking on the same program, said November’s general election will be “a referendum” on whether Obama “fulfilled his promises” to improve the economy.

“People can’t fill up the gas tank and buy a full set of groceries,” he said, adding that Obama “hasn’t done a thing about getting the deficit under control.”

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