MIAMI COUNTY — Speaker of the House John Boehner broke bread with members of the Miami County Chamber of Commerce at its annual legislative luncheon before he dished out the latest news on Capitol Hill on Thursday.
Boehner also took time to answer questions from the audience, including Troy High Schools’ new Business Club president Collin Moeller.
Moeller said it was a neat opportunity to meet with one of the nation’s leaders and asked how the federal government can help with small businesses.
“It was neat to hear what he had to say about the economy,” said Moeller, a junior at Troy High School. “I felt like this was a unique opportunity for us — I’d do it again.”
While Boehner said Moeller’s question was more for state leaders to answer, Boehner reiterated the need to keep regulations at a minimum to help increase business potential and get the economy running.
For his fellow Business Club members Cameron Timms and Courtney Mazzulla, they too felt honored to have lunch with the Speaker of the House.
“It was exciting — I got to shake hands with him,” Timms said. “I thought his points were solid and this was a nice experience.”
For Mazzulla, she said she wasn’t expecting to be seated near Troy’s U.S. Congressman, let alone, shake hands with him.
“It was a really neat experience for me to hear what he had to say for himself,” she said. “He was very interesting.”
Troy High School teacher Jeremiah Minehart said its the first year for the high school’s Business Club, which has 42 members and appreciated the invitation from the local chambers to attend.
COMMUNICATION CHANGING THE NATION
“It’s just me,” said Boehner as he took the podium at Troy’s Crystal Room. “I’ve had the honor of representing Miami County now — this is my 24th year representing all of you in Washington — and it really is an honor to represent the 700,000 people who live in our Congressional district and try to take their concerns, their hopes and their dreams and try to turn it in to something in Washington.
But I think all of you understand that Washington these days is a difficult place.”
Boehner attributed the great divide between Republicans and Democrats from the American people’s vast number of communication outlets and the “explosion of information” from which people gather their government information.
“There’s more information coming to American people about their government than they’ve ever gotten before,” he said.
Boehner said at the beginning of his early days in office, he told the crowd, “You had one cable news channel that just did news, there was an Internet, but only a couple geeks out in Palo Alto were using it.”
“This explosion of information has basically driven people in to one of two camps — on the right or on the left,” he said. “There used to be more room in the middle to be able to come together to get things done —obviously that has shrunk.”
Boehner said the instant communication in today’s technology world, “makes it difficult for me to move, makes it difficult for the President to move from time to time. We’re trying to reach some common ground and trying to get something done.”
Boehner noted that Washington, D.C. is “in one of the periods where we’re pretty difficult to get almost anything done,” with its 535 congressmen and women trying to agree on legislation.
“American people still expect their government to perform and while it may not be perfect, it really does work better than most people think,” he said, noting 80 percent of the work done in Congress is done on a bipartisan basis.
In a room full of local business owners, Boehner addressed the economy outlook for the nation and the stalemate the House of Representatives has come against with the U.S. Senate in terms of job creating bills.
“People are tired of this ‘new normal’ in the American economy,” he said. “Slow economic growth, not enough new jobs, wages not growing while the middle class continues to get squeezed day after day.”
Boehner said when he travels around the 8th Congressional District of Ohio, as well as the nation, he hears one question over and over again.
“Every day people look at me and ask me ‘Where are the jobs?’” he said.
Boehner said in the three years he has been voted as Speaker of the House, approximately 150 bills have passed the House floor to the Senate to help improve the economy and job market.
“All of them are sitting over in the U.S. Senate where they refuse to deal with us,” Boehner said.
Boehner mentioned President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech last month as the “toughest night of my year,” but said the president outlined some areas where he believed there was common ground to be made.
Boehner said a few bills assisting job training skills and consolidating programs were already passed in the House and waiting on Senate action, so he and his colleagues sent President Obama a letter asking for action.
“Here’s four areas where the house has already acted … we haven’t heard anything since we sent that letter,” Boehner said.
“America expects us to work to find common ground to deal with the issues their most concerned about.”
Despite the lack of response from the Senate and the White House, Boehner said he and his colleagues in the House of Representatives will continue to work to improve America’s economy.
Boehner addressed the concerns in regards to Obamacare — the second most asked question he receives from his constituents and from Americans.
Boehner said an alarming problem with the national health care system is the “back-end” of the website to connect those signing up for health insurance to connect with insurance companies.
“The back-end has never been built,” he said. “The problems with Obamacare are going to continue.”
Boehner said confusion on whether or not someone has insurance is a big problem with the current system.
Boehner said the president has modified the Affordable Care Act 22 times, including delaying the employer mandate pushed back to 2015.
“We’re still trying to get more information out of the administration as to whose actually paid and whose actually covered,” he said. “It’s a mess. I frankly think it’s going to get worse before it’s going to get better.”“
Another issue Boehner said he has with the ACA is the change of full-time status from 40 hours a week to 30 hours a week.
As a result of Obamacare, the average number of hours worked for the American people is going to go down, he said.
“People are going to work less hours, and because of the design of Obamacare, 2.5 million Americans are going to be pushed out of the labor market.”
Boehner said Obamacare alos will get in the way of growing the nation’s economy.
“I used to run a small business. I know what the burdens are providing health insurance to my employees because I did it,” he said. “When you have this much uncertainty about what the law is, what it’s going to cost, what you have to do, employers are going to sit on their hands.
“And when they are sitting on their hands, they are not buying new plants, new equipment, hiring new people and not expanding the economy.
Boehner said Obamacare “is going to ruin the best health care system the world has ever known.”
“Yes, we have problems in our health insurance market that could have been dealt with — they didn’t have to be dealt with by putting the government in charge of the entire health insurance and health care system in the country, which is in effect what Obamacare does,” he said.
ENERGY, EDUCATION, DEREGULATION
Boehner predicted the nation could be “three to four years away” from energy independence in North America.
“You can’t produce anything without energy,” said Boehner, noting the U.S. pays 30 percent less for its energy than the rest of the world and the disparity could mean an economic opportunity for future generations.
By producing its own energy, Boehner said global companies will look back to the U.S. to build manufacturing plants, as long as legislative efforts to curb projects like the Keystone Pipeline are not in place.
“America is going to have the chance again to be a nation of builders,” he said. “But if we’re truly going to take advantage of this opportunity — which I think will help our country for the next two or three generations — I think there’s some steps we need to take.”
Boehner said lifting the regulatory system which he scombative” to draw more international companies to do business in American is key.
“It’s combative — yes we need rules and regulations, but my God we’re smothering American manufacturers with all the rules and regulations,” he said.
Another step to free up the market is to simplify the nation’s tax code and lower rates. Boehner said he and his colleagues in Congress plan on rolling out a plan to start the discussion of the tax code revisions in the coming weeks.
“It will be controversial, I’m sure, because you can’t make a big change like this and simplify the code without tinkering with things that people find important,” he said.
Boehner also spoke about educating America’s children to compete in the modern era.
“When you look down the road in the next 20-30 years — India, China — they can cream off the top 1 percent of their students, give them a world class education and just dwarf us in the number of highly qualified people they’re putting into their industries,” he said. “If we’re going to have success, we’ve got to find a way to better educate our kids. I’m not here suggesting throwing more money at the problem. I’m suggesting the system we’ve used in 200 years is not servicing today’s kids as well as it could.”
Boehner said there are multiple efforts around the country to look for better ways to educate today’s children.
“If we are willing to do these kinds of things — get our government under control, get our tax system under control, think about how we educate more of America’s kids, we can rebuild the economic foundation of our country for the next two or three generations,” he said. “It is a giant opportunity that is available to all of us.”
Boehner closed his speech with a jab at his fellow co-workers on Capitol Hill.
“It’s one thing to get elected to Congress,” he said. “We’ve got some of the brightest people in America and we have some of the dumbest. We have some of the nicest people you’ll never meet, and we got some of the raunchiest.
So it’s one thing to get elected to Congress and another thing to get elected as Speaker,” he said. “I describe it as ‘Kidding the kidders’ — you can probably think of a different description.”
In closing, Boehner said he has as good as a relationship with his Democratic colleagues as his fellow Republicans.
“What I’ve tried to do over the course of my time as Speaker is to be fair to every member, because as Speaker you are Speaker of the whole house,” so members of both sides of the aisle believe they are being treated fairly, open the process so more members can participate, to have their voice heard.
“It’s an honor to be in charge of the institution,” Boehner said. “Because that institution is going to be important as our country moves forward.”
Q & A WITH THE CHAMBER MEMBERS
During a question and answer session after Boehner’s speech, Dan French of French Oil Mill Machinery in Piqua, a third- generation family-owned U. S. company that custom designs, manufacturers and supports hydraulic presses, asked Boehner about the Bengahzi investigation.
French said as a 28-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force, he wanted to be brought up to speed on how Congress was handling what French called “a debacle.”
Boehner said the four committees assigned to the investigation are “getting the job done” and didn’t need a special prosecutor. Boehner said up-to-date information can be found at www.gop.gov/benghazi. Boehner said the website is updated daily “as we drag it out of the administration.”
“Our goal is to get to the truth,” he said.
After Boehner’s speech, French said he still believes Boehner is trying to do the right thing in Congress to help veterans and businessmen like himself.
“I think he’s still pretty real,” French said. “We need people like that.”
Piqua Chamber of Commerce President Kathy Sherman said she was honored that Speaker of the House John Boehner was able to attend and speak at their annual event.
“I’m honored that he was able to come,” Sherman said. “We had more than 260 people attend and we had a wide variety of people here — it was a great response.”
Sherman assisted in Boehner’s question and answer portion by taking questions.
“The Q & A was great,” she said. “We usually don’t get that opportunity.”
Troy Area Chamber of Commerce President J.C. Wallace also was pleased with the full room of local members.
“We had a really great turnout of people,” he said. “His comments were up-to-date and now we know what’s going on with our federal government.”